5 first aid tips for heat burns

Here's what to do in the face of a burning emergency...

Burns are injuries to the skin and other tissues caused by heat, radiation or chemicals. They are a leading cause of injury in the home. Young children and elderly people are especially at risk of being burned, and at these ages, burn injuries are more serious.

Burns from too much heat applied to the body are the most familiar kind. Common heat sources include open flames, like candles or fire, and hot objects like stoves or car engines.

A scald is a heat burn caused by hot liquid or steam. Heat burns can also be caused by friction.

ALSO SEE: How to create a first-aid kit for every possible emergency situation

How to prevent burns

  • Geyser thermostats shouldn’t be higher than 54°C.
  • Prepare your child’s bath with cold water and add hot water until it’s warm enough.
  • Keep hot liquids such as tea and coffee out of reach of small children.
  • Teach your kids that the heat from stoves, ovens, fireplaces, candles and matches are dangerous.
  • Make sure that they are not wearing loose clothing like nightgowns when they are around the braai or fireplace.
  • Keep matches, lighters and all other smoking materials out of reach.

First aid tips to treat heat burns

  • Check the vital signs for breathing and a pulse. Call for medical help if you think you need assistance.
  • Cool the burn right away. Immerse the burned area in cool water. If you can’t, pour cool water on the area or cover it with a clean, wet cloth. The cooling will reduce the temperature of the burned area, reducing tissue damage, swelling and blistering. It will also help to relieve the pain.
  • Loosen or remove anything on the burned area that is tight – whether it is tight clothing or jewellery. Do this as soon as you can before the injury swells. Don’t remove anything that is stuck.
  • When the pain has lessened, loosely cover the burn with a clean, fluff-free dressing. If the area is large, use a sheet. Secure the dressing with tape, making sure there is no tape on the burned area.
  • Give ongoing casualty care, including arranging for medical help and treatment for shock.


What not to do

  • Don’t breath on, cough over or touch the burned area.
  • Don’t break the blisters.
  • Don’t use butter, lotions or oily dressing on a burn.
  • Don’t cover a burn with cotton wool or other fluffy material.
  • Don’t use adhesive dressings.
  • Don’t cool the casualty too much. Once the area is cooled, take action to keep the casualty warm.


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