Treating minor burns
Burns are a very common cause of injury to toddlers and many parents don't realise just how sensitive their young child's skin is, and how susceptible it is to burning, even at temperatures that don't feel very hot to an adult.
If your child should suffer from a small minor burn, where only the outer layer is skin is damaged and turns red, then you can care for the burn at home without going to the doctor. React quickly to cool the affected skin only with cold water - run it under the cold tap or cover it with water for at least ten to fifteen minutes. If the burn is somewhere awkward, use a cold compress. Don't use ice to cool the skin as you could damage the skin even more by doing so.
Dry the burn with a clean, soft towel and apply a sterile dressing or non-fluffy bandage which should be changed regularly until the wound heals. A small first-degree burn should heal in just a few days. Burns can take a couple of days to fully develop, however, and what may at first have looked like a mild first-degree burn may later blister, if so, be careful not to squeeze or puncture a blister as this interferes with the healing process and makes infection more likely. Your grandmother may have told you to put butter or some other grease on a burn to take out the heat, but this raises the chance of the wound becoming infected so is best avoided. If your child is in pain you can give him baby paracetemol or children's neurofen but NOT aspirin.
When to go to the doctor
If your toddler has anything other than a small first-degree burn you should call your doctor and with second - and third-degree burns you should go straight to A&E (or, if necessary, call an ambulance). Your child's skin is very delicate and could be scarred if you don't seek medical attention for anything but a minor burn, so do err on the side of caution.
Signs of more serious burns include a large burn area, rapid swelling and blistering, obvious skin damage, and pain (although very serious burns may damage the skin so much that nerve damage stops the child feeling pain). You should also take your child to the doctor if the burn has been caused by a chemical, such as one from cleaning fluids, or by electricity.
If your child has a serious burn don't attempt to remove any clothing or anything else stuck to his skin. Cool (as above) and cover the burn loosely with a sterile dressing or clean cling film to keep it clean (or wrap in a clean sheet if the burn area is large) and then take him straight to A&E.
Healing burns are very susceptible to infection. If you see any signs of infection while your toddler's burn, however minor, is healing, then you should call your doctor right away. Signs of infection include: Fever, increased swelling and/or redness of the burn area, increased pain, red streaks spreading from the burn area and swollen lymph nodes.
Most burn injuries happen in the home, the most common of which as scaldings from hot liquids or steam, and most are preventable with a little care. Here are the most important things to bear in mind to help you avoid them happening to your child:
- Keep kettles and flexes well out of the reach of toddlers and young children. Move them out of reach before you think that your child is capable to of reaching them
- Remember that a child can be scalded by a hot drink even 15 minutes after you have made it - keep babies and toddlers well away from hot drinks and don't have a child on your knee while you drink anything hot
- Turn down your thermostat to 54 degrees celsius or less to reduce the likelihood of scalding from a tap - your child's skin can still be burned by water at 50 degrees, but it takes about five minutes, rather than than the few seconds it takes at higher temperatures
- Fill the bathtub with cold water before bringing it to the correct temperature with warm water, don't allow your child to touch the taps herself and don't add warmer water to the bath when your child is in it
- Always check the temperature of your child's bath with your elbow (not your hand) or a bath thermometer before putting your baby or toddler in the bath
- Use a fireguard if you have an open fire
- Turn down your radiators to a safe temperature or use radiator guards
- Either keep your toddler securely away from your ironing board and iron when you iron or only iron when she's not around
- Use the back burners of your cooker and never leave pan handles sticking out to the front
- Teach your toddler to stay well away from the cooker and oven, particularly when they are in use
- Take extra care with your oven door, particularly if it is within your child's reach (you can buy a safety guard for ovens)
- Remember that ice can burn too - get a child-proof lock for your freezer door
- Be aware that a baby or toddler can easily pull hot liquids off a table by tugging on a table cloth