In this section
See our fact sheet
Burns – prevention and first aid if you are looking for what to do when your child has first received a burn.
Once your child has been seen by a doctor for a burns assessment, they will be given treatment depending on what kind of burn they have and where it is.
Burns are classified by how deeply they injure or burn the skin:
It can be very difficult to tell how deep a burn is at first. It can take around 10 days for a burn area to fully develop.
Burns usually heal on their own with time, as long as they are looked after well. Proper burns management will also help minimise scarring. A physiotherapist and/or an occupational therapist can help with this. See our fact sheet
Burns – rehabilitation.
Depending on how severe and deep the burn is, the new skin may take seven to 10 days to heal. However, sometimes burns don't heal and need skin grafting. See our fact sheet
Split skin graft.
Treatment for burns involves applying special dressings, or in some cases (e.g. for burns on the face), Vaseline. The dryness, size, depth and location of the burn need to be taken into consideration when choosing the type of dressing.
Most burns are treated by placing slightly damp dressings over the wounds. Burns dressings used at The Royal Children's Hosptial (RCH) usually involve a closed dressing technique, where the wound is covered with a dressing and not left open to the air. This not only protects the wound, but also reduces stress on the child and their family.
The aim of the dressing is to keep the wound clean and to prevent infection. The RCH uses dressings that contain silver, which releases for up to seven days. Silver is an antimicrobial, which means it prevents the growth of microbes such as bacteria. Its antibacterial properties help with healing.
Burns on the face or perineum (the area between the anus and the scrotum or between the anus and the vulva) require different dressings than other parts of the body.
If your child has been in hospital, they will be able to go home once they are eating and drinking enough, their pain is under control and their condition is stable. The burns do not have to be completely healed before your child is discharged from hospital.
There are different ways to care for your child's burns at home, depending on whether they have dressings or they are undergoing treatment for a burn on the face or perineum.
You will need to wash your child's face and apply Vaseline twice each day. This reduces the risk of infection. If required, give your child some pain relief (e.g. paracetamol) before cleaning their face. Twice a day:
The skin will start to form scabs as it heals. Once a scab has formed, stop using the Vaseline on that part and apply a moisturiser such as unperfumed sorbolene. Continue to use the Vaseline on the burnt areas that have not yet formed a scab.
You can shower/bath your child as normal on the non-burnt skin.
Most children do not have much pain once the dressing or Vaseline has been applied. However, sometimes you may need to give your child some simple pain relief such as paracetamol. If your child's pain cannot be relieved after this, take them to the GP.
Your child may experience itch and irritation as their burns heal.
Good nutrition is needed to help burns heal. Your child needs a diet high in protein and calories and plenty to drink. Talk to a dietician, your GP or hospital staff for advice and examples of good foods to eat to promote healing.
Your child may need to return to hospital or see a GP for review and dressing changes. The nurses or doctors will check how well the burnt skin is healing. Any areas that have not healed after about two weeks may need further medical intervention. This will be discussed with you when your child is reviewed.
Burns dressing changes can be upsetting for both your child and you. Dressing changes can be, but are not always, painful.
A combination of medications and techniques for distraction can help your child cope better with the procedure. Talk to staff about coping strategies for dressing changes and for ideas on how to talk to your child about their burns. Also see our fact sheet
Reducing your child's discomfort during procedures.
Before the appointment:
During the appointment:
See your GP or call your treating hospital if your child:
How should I bathe my child to prevent the dressings getting wet?
This will depend on the type and location of the burn, as well as the dressing used. Some dressings include a waterproof cover, which will protect the wound from splashes of water. Children may sit in a shallow bath and be wiped down with wash-cloths. Discuss this with your child's doctor or nurse.
When can my child return to school?
Once feeling better, your child is able to return to school. An appropriate sturdy dressing should be applied, and your child’s teacher and school nurse should be made aware of the dressing and how to manage it, in the event of accidental removal, splash or other complication.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Burns Unit. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed August 2018.
This information is awaiting routine review. Please always seek the most recent advice from a registered and practising clinician.
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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.