Burns are common. The most common causes of burns are:
- scalds from hot drinks such as cups of tea or coffee, hot water from kettles or pots, or hot water taps in the kitchen or bathroom
- contact with flames
- contact with hot objects such as stoves, irons, hair straighteners and hot coals
- chemical burns from swallowing things, like drain cleaner or watch batteries, or from spilling chemicals such as bleach, oven cleaner and concrete onto the skin
- electrical burns.
At first, it can be difficult to tell how deep a burn is, because it can take around two weeks for a burn area to fully develop.
First aid for burns:
- make sure you are safe
- put the burnt area under cool running water for at least 20 minutes, but don’t use ice (only apply water to the burnt area)
- remove any clothing around the burn that is not stuck to it
- remove any jewellery near the burnt area if that is easy to do
- use clingwrap or a clean dressing to cover the burn
- take painkillers like paracetamol and anti-inflammatory tablets.
Seek medical aid urgently if:
- The burn is deep, even if the patient does not feel any pain
- The burn is larger than a 20 cent piece
- The burn involves the airway, face, hands or genitals.
If you need urgent treatment, 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