Burns are usually divided into three categories depending on how much of the skin they affect:

  • Superficial burns affect the surface of the skin, making it red and sore. This sort of burn can be treated at home and usually heals in seven to ten days.
  • Partial and full thickness burns are much more serious, and require medical attention.

Deep or large burns, or burns to the face, hands or across joints, must always be checked by a doctor and may require hospital treatment.

Burns happen when the skin is exposed to heat or chemicals.

Scalds happen when the skin is exposed to hot fluids.


Seek medical advice if:

To treat superficial (minor) burns at home, make sure you cool down the skin as quickly as possible to prevent the burn getting worse.Hold the burn under cold, running water for 10 minutes. Chemical burns, for example from old batteries or strong cleaning fluids, should be rinsed in cold water for 20 minutes. Take off any jewellery, or clothing in the area of the burn. Do not apply any creams or lotions. 

Wrap the burned area in a clean plastic bag or cover with clingfilm. This helps to prevent infection and will not irritate the raw skin. It can be done as a temporary measure before you get medical advice. Alternatively, you can cover the burn with a clean, dry, smooth cloth.If the burn is painful, taking a mild painkiller such as paracetamol can help. 

Don’t interfere with the burn or break any blisters. If the burn is very painful or seems to be getting worse, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47, or visit your nurse for advice. (Extract from NHS Direct website)


Type of burns