Burns and scalds

Burns and scalds are damage to the skin usually caused by heat. Both are treated in the same way.

A burn is caused by dry heat – by an iron or fire, for example. A scald is caused by something wet, such as hot water or steam.

The palm of a burnt hand covered in red blisters

Burns can be very painful and may cause:

The amount of pain you feel is not always related to how serious the burn is. Even a very serious burn may be relatively painless.

Treating burns and scalds

To treat a burn, follow the first aid advice below:

Read more about treating burns and scalds.

When to get medical attention

Depending on how serious a burn is, it may be possible to treat it at home.

For minor burns, keep the burn clean and do not burst any blisters that form.

More serious burns require professional medical attention.

You should go to a hospital A&E department for:

If someone has breathed in smoke or fumes, they should also get medical attention.

Some symptoms may be delayed and can include:

People at greater risk from the effects of burns, such as children under 10 years old, should also get medical attention after a burn or scald.

The size and depth of the burn will be assessed, and the affected area cleaned before a dressing is applied. In severe cases, skin graft surgery may be recommended.

Read more about:

Types of burn

Burns are assessed by how seriously your skin is damaged and which layers of skin are affected.

Your skin has 3 layers:

There are 4 main types of burn, which tend to have a different appearance and different symptoms:

Preventing burns and scalds

Many severe burns and scalds affect babies and young children.

Examples of things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of your child having a serious accident at home include:

Read more about preventing burns and scalds.

Further advice

If you need advice about a burn or scald, you can:

Page last reviewed: 23 June 2022
Next review due: 23 June 2025