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Preventing and treating burns

Burns are skin injuries usually caused by contact with heat –  but they can also be caused by cold, chemicals, radiation, steam and electricity.  The majority of burns are preventable, so we've brought together some tips to help you reduce your risk.

In the kitchen

  • When you're using the hob, turn pan handles inwards and cook on the back burners where possible.
  • When heating food in the microwave, use microwave-safe cookware with a cover that allows steam to escape. Always use oven mitts to remove hot dishes.
  • When you're frying food, use a lid or splash guard to prevent hot grease spitting.
  • Don't leave food to cook on the hob unattended.
  • If you have an electric hob, be careful not to touch it even a while after using it – they can stay hot for some time.
  • If you might forget to turn off the hob or oven, set yourself a timer to remind you.
  • Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves and keep long hair tied back when you're cooking.

In the bathroom

  • Make sure baths and showers aren't too hot before you get in – you could use a thermometer to check they're under 44°C.
  • If you’re having a bath, you could run the cold water first and then add hot water afterwards to get it to the right temperature.
  • If you're prone to falls, you could install radiator covers to reduce your risk of contact burns.

In the bedroom

  • If you use an electric blanket, check whether it can definitely be kept on all night. If you have any continence issues, talk to your doctor before using one.
  • Never use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket together – no matter how cold the weather gets.
  • Avoid placing a heating pad or hot water bottle directly against your skin.
  • Test your hot water bottle for leaks by filling it with cool water first. Never overfill it – and be careful not to squeeze it when you're filling it up with hot water.

How to treat a minor burn

  • Remove the cause of the burning as soon as possible. This might mean helping someone away from a hot radiator or smothering flames with a blanket (or a fire blanket, if you have one) – but don’t put yourself at risk of getting burnt as well.
  • Run the burn under cool or lukewarm water for 20 minutes as soon as possible after the injury. Never use ice or iced water.
  • Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt area of skin. However, if anything is stuck to the burnt skin then leave it there, as removing it could cause more damage.
  • Lay cling film over the burn. This can help stop it getting infected.
  • Use painkillers to treat pain. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can work well.
  • Seek medical advice if the pain doesn’t get better. You can call 111 who will advise you on what to do next.

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Last updated: Jul 10 2023

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