Children's Hospital Colorado

Treating Burns

We collaborate with every specialty in the hospital to advance new surgical techniques, teach tomorrow’s surgeons and give our patients a brighter today.

Types of burns: A matter of degrees

Burns are classified by the amount of damage done to the skin and other body tissue:

  • First-degree burns, such as sunburns are minor and heal quickly. First-degree burns result in reddened skin.
  • Second-degree burns are serious injuries that require medical attention. Symptoms of second-degree burns include blistered, peeling skin.
  • Third-degree burns are severe and require immediate, professional medical attention. You will likely notice dry/charred, white, yellow or bright red tissue. Although the severely burned area may not be blistered, it often is surrounded by blistered areas.

A burn wound is constantly changing, which sometimes makes it difficult to determine the depth of the injury in the first 2-5 days.

Burns are painful. Our goal is for your child to be as comfortable as possible. Let the burn team know if your child’s pain is not well controlled.

Burn first aid

  • Stop the burning process.
  • Run cool water over the burn.
  • Do not use ice directly on the burn wound.
  • Do not apply home remedies/ointments.
  • Cover the burn with a clean bandage or cloth.
  • Take Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen for pain.
  • Seek medical attention if needed.

Healing burns

A high protein diet is important for wound healing. Encourage foods such as milk, meat, eggs, yogurt, cheese, beans and peanut butter. Limit water, juices and junk food.

If the burn wounds heal within 14-21 days, the chance of scarring is minimal to none.

Lotion massage
Once the skin is healed, you may begin to apply a non-perfumed lotion or moisturizer at least 4 times a day. Use a circular motion when rubbing the lotion into the skin. Massage the new skin with the lotion until you can no longer see the lotion. Lotion massage helps the skin be more elastic and smooth like uninjured skin, and also helps with itching.

A cast will protect the injured extremity during the healing process, decrease the need for frequent dressing changes and allow the injury to heal in an optimal position. The cast must stay dry so patients should take sponge baths only. If the cast gets wet, the cast must be removed and a new cast applied. Call the Burn Nurse at Children’s Hospital Colorado to make these arrangements.

Tight elastic garments may be used as a scar management tool. Custom pressure garments put constant, even pressure on the scar tissue, which results in improved texture and thickness of scars. If a pressure garment is recommended, it will be custom ordered by a physical or occupational therapist.

Home reference guide

Parents and caregivers can use the following information as a quick reference guide for treating burns at home.

  • Fever: A low grade fever of 99-100° is not uncommon. If your child’s temperature goes above 101.5° you should contact the Burn Program or your pediatrician to have your child evaluated.
  • Dressings: Generally, your child’s dressings will need to be changed every 4-7 days, unless directed otherwise by your doctor.
    • Keep dressings dry. Sponge bathe only between dressing changes.
    • Dirty dressings from playing are ok as long as the dressings stay dry and intact.
    • The dressings should be changed if they become wet or soiled from urine, stool or vomit.
    • You may need to reinforce dressings to keep them intact.
    • Contact the Burn Program if needed.
  • Signs and symptoms of infection: Parents and caregivers should be aware of the following signs of infection. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance right away:
    • Fever greater than 101.5°
    • Irritability/increased pain Increased redness around burn wound
    • Foul odor
    • Red rash
    • Increased drainage
  • Playing Outdoors: We want your child to be as active as possible, and some simple precautions can help with burn healing.
    • Protect facial burns from direct sunlight by wearing a large protective hat.
    • Prevent sand and dirt from getting underneath dressings.
    • Avoid playgrounds.
    • Contact sports should be avoided until burn injuries are healed.