First aid for burns: Dos and don’ts

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Your lit­tle one has burned her­self and blis­ters are now form­ing on her ten­der skin. What do you do?

In more than 98 per cent of the burn in­jury cases seen at KKH, first aid was not given ap­pro­pri­ately, says Dr Gale Lim, head and con­sul­tant at the department of plas­tic, re­con­struc­tive and aes­thetic surgery at KK Women’s and Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal (KKH). This can be dan­ger­ous.

“If the burn is not ap­pro­pri­ately treated in the first hour, this can lead to burn con­ver­sion, which is a su­per­fi­cial sec­ond-de­gree burn be­com­ing a deep sec­ond-de­gree burn in the en­su­ing days,” Dr Lim ex­plains.

A deeper burn takes a longer time to heal and has a greater risk for scarring, she warns.

Here, the KKH ex­perts share the dos and don’ts of han­dling scalds or burn in­juries.


• Re­move your child’s hot or wet clothes.

• Cool the burn un­der run­ning tap wa­ter for about 20 min­utes to pre­vent fur­ther ther­mal in­jury to the skin.

• Cover the burn with a clean towel and keep your child warm.

• Seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion.

• Call for an am­bu­lance if you no­tice breath­ing dif­fi­culty, es­pe­cially if there are ex­ten­sive burns or burns due to fire or flame.


• Stop ir­ri­gat­ing the burn with run­ning wa­ter when you no­tice blis­ters form­ing. Blis­ters usu­ally form min­utes af­ter the burn and they are re­lated to the depth of the burn.

• Use in­ap­pro­pri­ate sub­stances on the burn. Oil­based creams, tooth­paste or vine­gar do not cool the burn down. You may in­tro­duce bac­te­ria onto the wound if you ap­ply tooth­paste on it. The acid in vine­gar may cause fur­ther acid burns, in­jur­ing the skin fur­ther.

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