It is a terrible fact that burns happen every day. Whether this is adults or children, it can be scary if you don’t know how to react. Having a basic knowledge of first aid can prevent pain, panic, and the injury worsening.

Burns take place when the skin is damaged because of a heat source. In first aid, we talk about burns and scalds. Here is a little information to help you understand the difference.

Scalds: Scalding is a form of thermal burn resulted from heated fluids such as boiling water or steam. (Wet burns)

Burn: A contact burn is caused by heat such as fire, hot surfaces, cold, electricity, chemicals, friction, or radiation. (Dry burns)

What burns can look like?

  • Superficial burns on the outer layer of skin may look red and tender.
  • Partial thickness burns can become red, raw and blisters can form quickly.
  • Full thickness burns affect all layers of skin and can cause damage to muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and tissue.
  • Signs of shock including a pale face, skin feeling cold or clammy, an increased pulse.
  • Difficulty breathing if on the face or chest area.

Let us look at a scenario to put it in context

A child has burned their arm and they are screaming and crying in pain. The parents are distraught, and they panic but they know that water helps. They put the child’s burned limb under the tap, but the child is still screaming. The parents don’t know what to do. They stop the cold water and try to placate the child. They think that the doctors would be the best, so they dash to the surgery.


It’s now gone down a layer or two and a blister starts to form. The fluid-filled blister keeps the underlying skin clean, which prevents infection and promotes healing, but it is an action from the body to protect itself. While the parents were right to run cold water on the burn, had they continued with the water for at least 20 minutes, it would have taken the heat out of the burn and prevented further damage.

The treatment is the same and involves something most of us have access to. WATER. Lots and lots of it. Keep the area under cold running water for at least 20 minutes.

Think about situations where a burn could take place but access to water is scarce and, in these situations, take a bottle of water with you if possible.

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