Burns in Babies: Treatment & Home Remedies

6 min read

By Dr. Chetan Ginigiri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

We know that as a parent the safety of our baby is our priority. As cute as babies are, you don’t want to take your eyes off them. But because of their clumsy and curious nature, babies tend to get injured more often. Whether it’s spilling the water or putting their hand in hot water, babies can race your heart in seconds. Burns are one of the major causes of injuries among babies. As they have very tender skin, baby burn, unfortunately, is not uncommon. Baby’s skin 30% thinner than adult skin. It cuts, bruises and burns easily. No matter how small or big a baby burn is, you should start the treatment as soon as possible to help it heal faster. If you delay, the severity of the burn can increase and can also lead to permanent damage to the skin.

baby touching hot coffee on table

Accidents happen when you expect them least! So, if you have a baby or you are expecting one, preparing yourself is very crucial. A complete guide about baby burns is given below.

What are the Common Causes of Baby Burns?

Baby burn is any damage in the skin tissue of a baby due to heat, electric contact, overexposure to the sun, or chemicals. Scalds, burn from hot liquid or steam are major causes of the baby burn. The common causes of baby burns are:

  • Hot running water from tap or shower
  • Spilling of hot liquids like soup, milk, or tea
  • Hot food or hot cooking liquid like oil
  • Lit incense stick, match stick, or lighters
  • Hot utensils like saucepans or kettles
  • Flame for candles or gas stoves
  • Vehicle exhaust
  • Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburn
  • An iron, hair straightener, curler, or hair drier when on
  • Electric burns from sticking their fingers in an electric outlet

baby trying to reach hot pan

My Baby Got Burnt! What do I do?

Burns are painful and frightening for your baby and you panicking won’t help them. So, if your babies get a burn keep your guilt and worry aside and attend to your baby. Things that you should keep in mind while your baby gets a burn are:

  • Carefully take your baby away from the source
  • If clothes are on fire make sure you blow them off with a blanket
  • Check the intensity of the burn so you can decide whether to take the baby to the hospital immediately. If it’s serious rush your baby to the hospital. For this, it is important to have information about the hospital or nearby burn center handy
  • Use cool running water for 15 minutes to cool the burnt area. Do not use ice or even ice water as it can cut the blood supply and harm the skin even more
  • Remove the clothes over the burned area immediately. Do not remove the clothing if it is stuck to the skin
  • You can raise the burnt area of your baby’s body to prevent swelling
  • Use sterile dressing to cover the wound. Do not use any material that can stick to the wound. Do not use anything else other than burn ointment for babies recommended by the doctor
  • After you have given the first aid, give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain as per the dose recommended by the pediatrician

What are the Different Types of Burn Categories?

Baby burns are classified into three categories. This classification helps you to know the intensity and treat the burn:

First Degree

This is the mildest burn limited to the outer layer of skin. The area will become red and there can be pain (like in sunburn) or minor swelling. Skin will not have any blisters.

Second Degree

The burn is till the second layer of skin. The area will be red and blistered and it will pain.

Third-Degree

This is the most serious burn and the area can be white, leathery, brown, or charred. Depending on nerve damage, there can be pain or no pain.

skin burn types

Treatment of Minor Burn in Babies

If your baby has a minor burn like a first-degree burn you can treat it at home. This is what you can do to treat the burn:

  • Use cool running water to cool the burn. Do not use ice or rub the burn. If there is a blister do not break it
  • Cover the burn with a bandage. A bandage or any dressing should not get stuck to a burnt area
  • Keep the burnt area clean and re-dress it timely. Do not apply home remedies like butter or toothpaste

Home Remedies to Cure Burn in Babies

Minor baby burns can heal within days. The home remedies for baby burn treatment are:

  • Cool water (never cold)
  • Cool compresses or wet cloth
  • Apply the Aloe vera gel from a leaf directly
  • Honey
  • Moisturizing creams

applying cream on burn in baby foot

When is the Right Time to Call the Doctor?

That sounds like the most important question! Call or go to the doctor if:

  • It is a second- or third-degree burn
  • Burn covers a large part of the baby’s body
  • Burn is on hands, feet, face, genitals, or joints
  • It is an electrical or chemical burn as it can have various symptoms
  • There are signs of infection like swelling, increased pain, fever, drainage, or pus
  • The baby has inhaled smoke or is having breathing problems

Do I Give First Aid While Waiting for Help?

Yes, you got to do something while you are waiting for help. If the burn is very serious, call the doctor so they can assist you on the phone. Keep the burn under running cool water for 15-20 minutes. Cover the area with something sterile that does not stick to the burn. Do not use ice, oil, butter, or any other ointment as they can worsen the injury.

Baby Burns and Treatment

Different burns need different types of treatment:

Sunburn

If the sunburn is mild, you can treat it using cool compresses or bathing the baby with cool water. If the baby is having fever, chills, or blisters, then it’s serious and requires hospitalization

Chemical or Electrical Burn

Both of them might not have visible symptoms but can have internal damage that requires hospitalization. If it’s an electric burn, make sure to cut off the supply first and then hold the baby. If it’s a chemical burn use a lot of water to wash it off. Call the doctor in both cases

First-Degree Burn

It can be easily treated at home. After cleaning the area, you can apply the burn ointment to babies

Second-Degree Burn

Depending on the intensity, the baby might or might not need to be hospitalized. It will need regular dressing by the doctor

Third-Degree Burn

It can need longer hospitalization time and skin grafts

baby playing with socket and iron box

Are there any Tips to Keep Baby Safe from Burns?

Some simple things that you can keep in mind to keep your baby safe from burns are:

  • Do not keep hot drinks or hot food in the reach of the baby
  • If you are busy with some work, make sure your baby is in a safe place
  • Fit smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher in the house
  • Don’t leave baby alone anywhere near lit candles, gas stoves, or firecrackers
  • Make sure to unplug the iron, hairdryer, straightener, or curler
  • Never leave the baby alone in the bathroom or near the bucket of hot water
  • Lock up flammable liquids, matchsticks, and lighters

It is important to remember that the situation requires you as a parent to keep your calm and think objectively to understand what steps you can take immediately to relieve your baby of the misery. So act quickly and keep all safety measures handy!

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Dr. Chetan Ginigiri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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