First-Degree Burn in Children
What is a first-degree burn?A burn is damage to tissues of the body caused by contact with things such as heat, radiation, or chemicals. A first-degree burn affects only the outer layer of skin (epidermis).
What causes a first-degree burn?
The causes of a first-degree burn can include:
- Mild sunburn
- Very hot water
- Hot object, like a pot or pan
What are the symptoms of a first-degree burn?
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. Symptoms can include skin that is:
- Painful for 48 to 72 hours and then feels better
The symptoms of a first-degree burn can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is a first-degree burn diagnosed?The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. The diagnosis of a first-degree burn is based the signs and symptoms, and recent exposure to something that can cause a burn. This may be the sun, something hot, or a chemical.
How is a first-degree burn treated?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
A first-degree burn usually heals on its own within a week. Treatment may include:
- A wet cloth soaked with cold water (cold compress) held to the skin, to ease pain
- Antibacterial cream, to help prevent infection
- Other creams, to lessen pain and swelling
- Over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and swelling
- Any other treatment advised by your child’s healthcare provider
First-degree burns are usually not bandaged.
What are possible complications of a first-degree burn?Long-term tissue damage is rare and may be an increase or decrease in the skin color. In some cases, the area may become infected.
Can a first-degree burn be prevented?
The following are some of ways to prevent burns in children:
- Keep your child out of the sun. Use sunscreen when your child is old enough, usually at 6 months.
- Make sure hot water is set below 120° F (48.8° C).
- Put covers on electrical outlets.
- Make sure pot and pan handles are turned toward the back of the stove.
- Be careful with hot drinks.
- Keep hot appliances in safe places. This includes toasters, irons, and hair-styling tools.
When should I call my child's healthcare provider?
Call your child's healthcare provider if:
- Your child has a fever
- There is fluid leaking from the burn area
- There is increased swelling or redness of the burn area
Key points about a first-degree burn
- First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of the skin.
- They may be caused by the sun, hot water, or hot objects.
- They are treated by applying cold, like running water or a cold cloth, at first. Creams or lotions may be applied.
Next stepsTips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
- Duldner, John E., MD, MS
- Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN