When it comes to burns, would you know what to do?

Suggested treatments are updated regularly by the HSE… but it will only take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the best suggested treatments!

Burns can be caused by all kinds of sources such as hot water or steam, chemicals, the sun, electricity or fire. Burns are particularly dangerous to the very old or very young, if they involve the airways, or if they cover a large area of the body.

Regardless of the cause of the burn, they usually require the same treatment.

Firstly, remove the heat source is possible. This might be done by the casualty as a reflex reaction, or might involve actions such as a casualty ‘dropping and rolling’ if clothes are on fire.

How to Treat a Burn with ‘SCALDS’©:


Remove the heat source if possible.





Cool the burn, ideally under cold or lukewarm running water, for at least 20 minutes. Keep the person warm to avoid hypothermia.




If the burn is very deep or covers a large area call 999 while the burn is being cooled. Call 111 for advice if you are unsure.



Remove or loosen unstuck objects only. Do not remove anything that is stuck to or touching the burn, as this is likely to cause damage.




Dress the burn using burns dressing, a clean clear plastic bag, or cling film in a single non-constructive layer.



Look out for signs of and treat shock, which might be caused by fluid loss.



Spot The Difference: Major and Minor Burns

Minor Burns usually cause discomfort and stinging. Common examples include sunburn and quick contact burns such as from an iron or hair straighteners. Treat with ‘SCALDS’ –  although an ambulance is unlikely to be needed. They are likely to be very sore and have blister formation.

Major Burns are very serious, involving all layers of the skin even as far as fat tissue. There may be damage to the muscle, blood vessels and nerves. This type of burn is sometimes less painful due to nerve damage.

Look out for signs of, and treat, hypovolaemic shock – which might be caused by fluid loss. The size of a burn is linked to the likelihood of shock developing. The larger the burn, the more likely it is that the casualty will suffer shock from fluid loss. Therefore it is useful to be able to give an estimate of the size of the burn if you have to call the emergency services.

As a guide, the casualty’s palm and fingers is approximately 1% of the body size. Burns that are more than 1%, and more than superficial will usually require hospital treatment.


It really is that simple.

In any burns emergency just remember to stay CALM, and to practice ‘SCALDS©


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Categories: First Aid Blog

Richard - Founder & Course Originator

Richard is the Founder & CEO at SkillBase First Aid


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