Burn Wound Check (Child)

Burns are common injuries in young children. Burns damage the skin and underlying tissues. Minor burns usually heal in less than 1 week. But the skin may never go back to its natural color. Severe burns take longer to heal.

Your child’s burn has been checked by the healthcare provider. It may have been cleaned and covered with a bandage.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for your child at home:

The healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic cream or ointment to prevent infection. The provider may also advise a pain medicine before a dressing change. Follow the provider’s instructions for giving these medicines to your child.

If you need to change the bandage:

  • Follow the provider’s instructions on when and how to change the bandage. Also follow any instructions on how to care for the wound.

  • Remove a bandage that sticks to the skin by first soaking it in cool, clean running water.

  • Gently remove any adhesive by using mineral oil or petroleum jelly on a cotton ball. Children have sensitive skin that can be irritated by adhesive.

General care

  • Carefully wash your hands with soap and clean, running water before and after caring for the wound.

  • Check the wound often for signs of infection listed below.

  • Don’t put ice or cold water on the burn.

  • Dress your child in loose-fitting clothing.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised. Call the provider if you see signs of scarring, or muscle spasms or tightening (contractures).

Special note to parents

Protect your child’s skin from direct sunlight when outdoors. Follow the healthcare provider’s advice on which sunscreen to use on your child. Providers often advise sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Put sunscreen on any exposed skin every 2 to 3 hours. Have your child stay in the shade, and wear long, loose-fitting clothing and a hat.

When to get medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • Redness or swelling that gets worse

  • Pain that gets worse. Babies may show pain by being fussy.

  • Foul-smelling fluid drains from the wound

  • Wound doesn’t heal

  • Your child scratches the wound or complains of itchiness

  • Vomiting

  • Not eating well 

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds of digital thermometers. They include ones for the mouth, ear, forehead (temporal), rectum, or armpit. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Use a rectal thermometer with care. It may accidentally poke a hole in the rectum. It may pass on germs from the stool. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, use another type. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child.

A baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

A child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

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