Playing With Fire: Protecting Your Child From a Burn

Jan 10, 2023

If you play with fire you are going to get burned. As adults, we know this already, most likely from a bad experience, but children have yet to figure this out. Burns are nothing to trifle with and can cause serious damage, which is why it is paramount to stay informed and to teach our youth the danger of playing with fire and the consequences that may ensue.

What are burns?

As you already know, burns are a type of injury caused by heat. Heat can be thermal, electrical, chemical, or electromagnetic energy. Most burn accidents occur at home. Interestingly enough, about 75% of all burn injuries in children are preventable. Scalding is the leading cause of burn injury for children, while smoking and open flames are the leading causes of burn injury for older adults.

We all know what a burn is, but many people don’t know what the most common burns are. First off, there are thermal burns. These burns raise the temperature of the skin and tissue underneath. Thermal burns happen from steam, hot bath water, tipped-over coffee cups, hot foods, cooking fluids, etc. Next, there are radiation burns which happen from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays (a sunburn because the skin isn’t well-protected in the sun) or from radiation such as during an X-ray. Then, there are chemical burns that happen from strong acids (like drain cleaner or button batteries) or spilling chemicals (like bleach) onto the skin or eyes. Lastly, electrical burns. These are from contact with electrical current and can happen from things like biting on electrical cords or sticking fingers or objects in electrical outlets, etc. Knowing the type of burn a child has can help with first-aid measures. All burns should be treated quickly to lower the temperature of the burned area and reduce damage to the skin and tissue underneath.

Types of Burns

Simply put, there are first, second, and third-degree burns—1st being the least significant and 3rd being the most serious.

First-degree burns…

…Also known as superficial burns, burns are the mildest type of burns. They’re limited to the top layer of skin. Signs and symptoms to look out for would be redness, pain, and minor swelling. The skin is dry without blisters. Healing time is about 3–6 days; the superficial skin layer over the burn may peel off in 1 or 2 days.

Second-degree burns…

…Which are a bit more serious. These burns are more serious and involve the top layer of skin and part of the layer below it. The burned area is red and blistered and can swell and be painful. The blisters sometimes break open and the area is wet looking with a bright pink to cherry red color. Healing time varies depending on the severity of the burn. It can take up to 3 weeks or longer.

Third-degree burns…

…Are the most serious type of burn. They involve all layers of the skin and the nerve endings there and may go into underlying tissue. The surface appears dry and can look waxy white, leathery, brown, or charred. There may be little or no pain or the area may feel numb at first because of nerve damage. Healing time depends on the severity of the burn. Most need to be treated with skin grafts, in which healthy skin is taken from another part of the body and surgically placed over the burn wound to help the area heal.

Burn Treatment

Most small, blistering burns can be treated and cared for at home, however taking your little one to your healthcare provider will always be your best bet. If you have any questions about whether a burn can, be taken care of at home, discuss it with your physician. If you do choose to take the home-care route, make sure to cool the burn by running cool running water over the burn for about five minutes. This helps stop the burning process and decreases pain and swelling. Do not put ice on a burn and don’t rub the burn, because this can worsen the injury. Do not break blisters as this can increase the risk of infection at the burn site. Make sure to cover the burned area with a clean bandage that will not stick to the burned site. This helps decrease the risk of infection and decreases pain. Lastly, protect the burn. It’s crucial to keep the burn site clean with gentle washing with soap and water. Do not apply any ointments to the burn site unless instructed by your pediatrician. Never apply butter, greases, or other home remedies to a burn before discussing it with your healthcare provider, as these can increase the risk of infection as well.

If you believe that your child is suffering from a third-degree burn and has blisters larger than 2 inches or full-thickness burns with white or charred skin, go to an emergency department. It is important that before coming in you should cover the burn with a sterile dressing or clean washcloth or towel.

After the Burn

Superficial or mild partial thickness burns hurt for about two days and peel like a sunburn in about a week. These burns shouldn’t leave a scar if managed correctly. If the burn is open, your child will need a tetanus booster if it has been more than five years since his/her last tetanus shot, your child has had less than three tetanus shots in his/her lifetime, or if you’re not sure when your child had a tetanus shot last. Your child should get this shot from your pediatrician within three days of the burn. Call your healthcare provider immediately if your child’s burn looks infected. Symptoms include a large red area or streak larger than 2 inches around the burn. A fever may or may not be present. If there is increased redness or notice any signs of infection, bring your child to Chai Care and our top-notch staff will gladly take care of your little one!

* Legal disclaimer: The content of this article and the entire Chai Care blog is for educational purposes only; it does NOT constitute medical advice and must not be considered as such. Please consult a medical professional regarding any symptoms or health concerns you or your loved ones.

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