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First aid for burns and scalds

If your baby or child has a burn or scald, start by checking where the injury is and how bad it is. Burns and scalds above the neck could affect breathing or vision.

Stop the burning process as soon as possible. This may mean removing the child from the area, dousing flames with water, or smothering flames with a blanket. Do not put yourself at risk of getting burnt as well.

A scald is a burn caused by hot liquid or steam. You can treat scalds in the same way as burns.

Burns can be very painful for your baby or child. They can cause blisters and burnt, black or red skin.

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 for an ambulance immediately if:

  • the burn or scald is above the neck

If other areas are affected, take your child to hospital immediately unless the burn or scald is very minor.

How to treat burns and scalds

Give your child basic first aid if the burn is minor or while you wait for further medical attention:

1. Put the injured area under cool water for 20 minutes

Cool the burn or scald immediately. Run cool water over it for around 20 minutes. This helps with pain and can reduce the risk of scarring and need for surgery.

Only put cool water on the burnt skin. Try to keep your child warm by using layers of clothing or a blanket, but avoid putting them over the injured area. 

Keeping your child warm will prevent hypothermia. This is where their body temperature drops to less than 35 degrees Celsius. Hypothermia is more likely to happen if the burn is large and you are cooling a large area of skin.

Only use burn gels or hydrogels if there is no cool running water nearby. Always apply cool water after using burn gels or hydrogels. A hydrogel is a gel-like dressing for burns.

If you cannot apply cool water immediately, do it as soon as possible after the injury.

2. Remove clothing and accessories

Remove any nappies, clothing and jewellery near the injury, unless they are stuck to the skin.

If a piece of clothing is stuck to skin, do not remove it. Cut around it instead.

3. Do not put anything on the injury

Do not put any of the following on the burn or scald:

  • ice
  • fats or butter
  • creams
  • ointments
  • lotions
  • sprays
  • adhesive (sticky) dressings or plasters

4. Cover the burn loosely with cling film

Cover the injury loosely with cling film if it is likely to rub against objects. You can use a clean plastic bag if the injury is on the hand.


  • do not wrap the burnt area too tight - swelling may lead to further injury

  • do not pop any blisters - they prevent skin infection

Getting medical attention

When to call an ambulance

Urgent advice: Call 112 or 999 for an ambulance if:

  • the burn or scald is above the neck
  • your child has difficulty breathing
  • your child is unresponsive

Do not delay in an emergency - dial 112 or 999 immediately.

While waiting for an ambulance, give your child first aid.

Emergency services and when to get help

When to go to the emergency department

Go to your nearest emergency department if:

  • a baby or small child has been burned or scalded
  • the burn area is larger than a €2 coin
  • the burn is on your child's face, hands or genitalia
  • any burns appear white or chalky
  • there is evidence of an inhalation injury - this may include soot or smoke residue around the nose or mouth
  • there are signs your child is in shock, such as cold, clammy skin, sweating, fast and shallow breathing, weakness or dizziness
  • there are any chemical or electrical burns, even if they are small

When to go to your GP

Go to your GP if:

  • you need advice about minor burns or scalds - minor burns are smaller than a €2 coin
  • the area around a healing burn becomes red, or pus starts to come out of it - this could be a sign of infection

Chemical burns

Some household cleaning products can cause burn injuries. This is because of the chemicals in them.

Chemical burns can be very damaging. They need immediate medical attention at a hospital emergency department (ED).

Call the poisons information line on 01 809 2166 if you think your child has been poisoned. The line is open every day from 8am to 10pm.

Try to find out what caused the burn. If you can, tell the healthcare professional treating your child.

If you think your child has had a chemical burn:

  • remove any clothing the chemical has spilled on
  • brush the chemical off their skin, if the chemical is dry
  • use running water to remove any traces of the chemical from the burnt area

Prevent burns and scalds

Children can suffer deep burns and scalds very quickly. Their skin is thinner than an adult’s.

Serious injuries often need prolonged treatment and skin grafting. The lasting effects of burns and scalds - both physical and emotional - can be difficult to overcome.

You can prevent many burn and scald injuries if you know what hazards to look out for.

These include:

  • hot liquids, such as baths, hot drinks and heated bottles
  • cooking and hot food
  • electrical equipment, including hair straighteners
  • flames
  • chemicals

Help prevent burns and scalds to your child:


  • keep your child away from risks

  • supervise your child at all times

  • take precautions during everyday activities like baths and meals

Page last reviewed: 10 November 2022
Next review due: 10 November 2025