Caring for your Child’s Burn
Information for parents and carers
A burn is damage to the skin’s tissues. Burns include scalds from hot liquids, contact
burns from hot objects (such as an iron), burns caused by flames, chemical and
electrical burns and sunburn.
A child’s skin is thinner than adults skin, and deep injuries occur more easily.
Types of Burn
The severity depends on how deeply the burn has affected the tissue. There are
three categories of burn:
• Superficial – only affects the surface of the skin. The skin is red, slightly swollen
and very painful. It will usually take 3-6 days to heal.
• Partial Thickness – a deeper burn but it does not affect the whole depth of the skin.
The top layer of skin is destroyed and the next layer is also damaged to varying
degrees. The skin appears deep red or purple, swollen and blistered. It will usually
take 2-3 weeks to heal. Specialist advice and treatment may be required from the
burns team at Frenchay Hospital.
• Full Thickness – the full depth of the skin is damaged and the skin appears dry and
leathery. The skin may be pale or blackened. Your child will be referred to the
burns team at Frenchay Hospital for their specialist advice and treatment.
After a burn, your child is at risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome. This is an
infection of the burn site and can happen in surprisingly small burns and scalds.
Signs and symptoms:
Signs and symptoms:
• High fever
• Diarrhoea and vomiting
• Very sleepy
• Off food and drink
• Not passing urine
If your child shows any of these symptoms, please see your GP or return to the
Emergency Department. They may need to come back into hospital for observation
What Happens Next?
Depending on the nature of your child’s burn you will either be referred to the burns
team at Frenchay Hospital or asked to come back to the Emergency Department for a
follow up. This is to ensure the burn is healing well and there are no signs of
It is Gloucestershire NHS Foundation Trust’s policy that every child who attends the
Emergency Department with an injury has a Health Visitor referral. Some burns can
take a considerable length of time to heal and you may require extra help from
specialist services i.e. dressing changes. You may be contacted by the Health Visitor
to see how your child is and to check all the services you need are in place.
Care of the Dressings
The dressings have been put on to protect the burn whilst the skin heals. Please
leave them on until you return to the hospital for your follow up appointment.
To reduce the risk of infection, try to keep the dressing clean and dry.
This is a special type of dressing, used by the burns team at Frenchay, to help certain
types of burn/scald injuries. It is put on in theatre, under anaesthetic. You will be
told if Biobrane has been applied to your child’s wound. It is glued to the edges of
the wound and as the wound heals it begins to peel off. It is very important
Biobrane is not removed before it is ready, unless advised by a doctor or nurse from
the burns team at Frenchay Hospital.
Contact the Emergency Department or the burns team at Frenchay Hospital if any of
the following things happen before your follow up appointment:
• The dressing becomes too loose or falls off
• The dressing becomes too tight
• The dressing becomes wet or fluid from the burn leaks through
• The dressing becomes smelly or looks green
Plenty of fluid, a good diet and pain relief are important to help the burn or scald
to heal as quickly as possible.
To help fight infection and to help your child’s skin heal they will need to eat more
protein and vitamins. Protein can be found in; meat, fish, cheese, eggs, custard, milk,
ice cream, yogurts. Vitamins can be found in fresh fruit and vegetables. It is also
important they drink more milk and water than normal as fluid is lost from the burnt
Burns can be very painful. If your child seems to be in pain you should give them
regular paracetamol (Calpol). Dosages for your child’s age can be found on the
bottle. Please read and follow the instructions on the bottle carefully.
Following a burn injury, it is recommended that you fully protect your child from the
sun for 2 years as their skin will blister and burn more easily. It is recommended that
you do this by keeping them covered with clothing or using a very high factor (25+)
sun protection cream, applied regularly. After this period you should continue to use
high factor sun protection creams on your child as recommended, to prevent your
child’s skin from burning.
If you feel you need further information or you have any concerns please contact:
• Emergency Department, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital or Cheltenham General
Hospital 08454 222222
• Barbara Russell Unit, Frenchay Hospital 01179753930
• Your GP or Practice Nurse
• NHS Direct 0845 4647
Author: Jane Birch
Review March 2013