First aid treatment for burns and scalds

Essential first aid - How to treat burns and save lives

Burns are one of the most common household injuries, yet many people are unsure how to respond effectively. Knowing how to administer first aid for burns can make a significant difference in the outcome for the victim. In this article, Rose will explore the key steps to providing immediate treatment for burns, as well as the importance of being prepared and informed.

Key facts and statistics

  • Every year, millions of people worldwide suffer from burns, with a significant portion requiring medical attention.
  • In the UK alone, there were approximately 130,000 burns and scalds requiring hospital treatment in 2019, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
  • Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to burns, and they often require specialised care to prevent complications.

Key definitions

Before delving into treatment methods, it's essential to understand the different types of burns:

  • First-degree burns - These affect only the outer layer of skin, causing redness and pain.
  • Second-degree burns - These penetrate the second layer of skin, resulting in blistering, severe pain, and potential scarring.
  • Third-degree burns - The most severe type, these burns extend through all layers of the skin and may even damage underlying tissue and bone.

Relevant legislation, regulations, and best practice

  • In the UK, employers have a legal obligation under the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 to provide adequate first aid training and equipment, including for burn injuries.
  • The British Burn Association (BBA) provides guidance on best practices for managing burn injuries, including initial assessment, treatment, and referral to specialist care.
  • Adhering to these regulations and guidelines ensures that workplaces and individuals are prepared to respond effectively to burn emergencies.

Immediate response

  • The first step in treating a burn is to remove the source of heat and cool the affected area with cool running water for at least 20 minutes. This helps to reduce pain and minimise tissue damage.
  • It's crucial not to use ice, butter, or any ointments on the burn as they can worsen the injury.

Assessment and classification

  • Once the burn has been cooled, assess its severity. Minor burns may be treated at home with appropriate first aid, while more severe burns require medical attention.
  • Use the "rule of nines" or the Lund and Browder chart to estimate the percentage of body surface area affected by the burn, which helps determine the level of care required.

Dressing and bandaging

  • For minor burns, apply a sterile dressing or clean cloth to protect the wound and prevent infection.
  • Avoid breaking blisters, as they act as a natural barrier against infection. If a blister bursts, clean the area gently and apply an antiseptic cream.

Seeking medical attention

  • Third-degree burns and burns larger than the size of a 50p coin require immediate medical attention.
  • Signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, swelling, or discharge from the wound, also warrant prompt medical assessment.


  • Ensure that your workplace is equipped with appropriate first aid supplies, including burn dressings and sterile gauze.
  • Provide regular first aid training for employees to ensure they are prepared to respond to burn emergencies effectively.


Knowing how to administer first aid for burns is a vital skill that can save lives and prevent long-term complications. By following the steps outlined in this article and adhering to best practices, you can be better prepared to respond to burn injuries and provide essential care when it's needed most.

Don't wait until it's too late. Click here to enrol in our first aid training courses and qualifications and equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to respond confidently to emergencies. Remember, being prepared could make all the difference in a burn emergency. Stay informed, stay safe!

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always seek professional medical assistance in emergency situations.

About the author

Rose Mabiza

Rose has dedicated over 15 years to improving health and social care quality through practice, targeted education and training. Her extensive experience includes working with older adults, individuals with mental health conditions, and people with autism and learning disabilities.

How to treat burns and save lives - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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