image of child's burned hand

Burn Injuries: When Should You See a Doctor?

Burns can be scary, both for children and parents and it’s not always clear whether you can take care of the burn on your own or if you need to have it evaluated by a doctor. If you determine your child’s burn is serious enough to require further evaluation, or if your child is not tolerating care of the burn, take them to an urgent care, emergency department or their pediatrician’s office.

Burns are classified based on their severity – first, second and third degree. A first degree burn is the least serious type, involving only the outer layer of skin without open areas. It will resemble a mild sunburn and may cause redness, swelling and pain. If the burn is less than a quarter in size, and is not over a major joint, you can often care for it safely at home.

First degree burn treatment would include cleaning the wound with cool (not cold) water and a gentle, unscented soap and applying an unscented, moisturizing lotion. For minor second degree burns (blistered with possible skin loss) cleanse as above, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a band aid or dry gauze.

Seek medical assistance for:

  • Burns to the hands, face, feet or groin
  • Burns caused by flames, fire embers or hot grease
  • Burns that cross a joint
  • Areas of whiteness in a burned area
  • Large Blisters ( bigger than a half dollar ) and large areas of skin loss
  • Electrical or chemical burns
  • A burn affecting multiple areas of the body or a major portion of the body
  • Pain that is uncontrolled by Ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Signs of infection; fevers, increased pain, increasing redness, swelling or oozing from the burn site

If your child is seen in a burn clinic, he or she will be evaluated by a nurse, who will remove any dressings you have in place and clean the affected area with soap and water. This can be uncomfortable for a child, so giving a pain-reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen approximately 30 minutes before their appointment is recommended.

Your child will then be evaluated by one a burn practitioner, either a physician or nurse practitioner, who will determine the plan of care. Representatives from Psychology, Occupational and Physical Therapy may also see your child during their visit in order to optimize healing and assure the best possible outcome.

For more information about Nationwide Children’s Burn Clinic, click here or call 614-722-3910 for an appointment.

Cassandra McNabb, RN-BSN
Cassandra McNabb graduated with her BSN from Mount Carmel College of Nursing. She has been employed by Nationwide Children’s Hospital since 2009. She has been a staff RN in the Pediatric Surgery Clinic for 2 years, working in both surgery and burn clinics. She also has experience in emergency nursing, trauma, pulmonary and critical care. She is a proud aunt to James and Harper.

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