First aid for burns
If you have a burn or a scald, you can:
- make sure you are safe
- put the burnt area under cool running water for at least 20 minutes, but don’t use ice
- use a hydrogel for first aid if water is not available
- remove any clothing near the burn that is not stuck to it
- remove any jewellery near the burn if that is easy to do
- take painkillers like paracetamol and anti-inflammatory tablets.
If it's a chemical burn, take off any contaminated clothing. For dry chemicals, brush off the chemicals before putting the burnt area under water.
If the burn is to your arm or leg, raise it whenever possible to reduce swelling.
Some things to avoid:
- don’t put a child with burns into a bath full of cold water
- if blisters develop don’t pop them, and visit your doctor in case they need to be removed
- don’t use any ointments or creams on a burn. They seal heat in and cause more damage.
Most small burns will heal themselves in 10-12 days. If the burn does not have any blisters or broken skin, such as sunburn, a simple moisturiser such as sorbolene is the best treatment. For all other burns seek medical treatment for appropriate dressings.
If things get worse, or if you are not up to date with tetanus injections, see your doctor.
If you need urgent treatment call triple zero (000) or, if safe to do so, go to the nearest emergency department. The treatment for serious burns includes:
- perhaps admission to hospital
- perhaps surgery.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your burn or scald, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: August 2017