Scalds are burns from hot liquids or steam. Everyday items used in and around the house cause the most scald injuries. Such things as hot drinks, fat and hot cooking oil, steam and vapour, water from saucepans or kettles and running hot water from taps, showers and baths. A burn is an injury to the body’s tissue resulting from heat, chemicals, electricity or sunlight. The severity of a burn depends on the amount of tissue affected and the depth of the injury.

Burns and scalds are a major cause of serious injury in children from newborn to 14 years old but especially those aged between one and two years old due to their increased mobility and natural curiosity to explore their surroundings. A child’s sensitive skin burns far more easily than adult skin.

Immediate first aid will reduce the severity of a burn. If someone has received a burn, you should apply cool running water (not ice or iced water) for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Carefully remove constrictive clothing only if the skin is not blistered or stuck to the clothing. If possible remove all jewellery and watches as burns cause swelling and it may hinder circulation. Cover the burn using a clean dressing (a clean sheet, non-fluffy towel/tea towel or glad wrap). Do not use adhesive dressings, apply fat, ointment or lotions, break a blister or touch the burn. If possible elevate the burnt limb to minimise swelling. Keep the child covered where possible so they don’t get cold and try to keep them as calm as possible.

If the burn is larger than a 20 cent coin, see your doctor or go to the emergency department of your local hospital.

Ways to help reduce the risk of children burning themselves

  • Keep hot drinks out of reach and never drink a hot drink with a baby or child in your lap.
  • Turn pan handles towards the back away from where a child may reach and grab. Try to use the back hot plates where possible.
  • Reduce the temperature of the hot tap water at the basin, bath and shower.
  • Never leave children alone in the bathroom or kitchen.
  • Put cold water in the bath first and then bring up the temperature with hot water.

If a child is burned, apply immediate first aid. Dial triple zero (000) for an ambulance if the injury is severe.