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HealthInfo Canterbury

Burns first aid

This page has links to information in other languages.


Stop the burning and make things safe.

Cool the burn for 20 minutes

This stops the burn doing more damage, and helps the pain. Do this immediately if possible (after making sure the area is safe and calling for help if needed). You can start this up to three hours after the injury.

Cover the burn

This helps to prevent infection and decrease pain.

When to seek medical help

Call an ambulance on 111 if you are worried about a more severe injury, especially with electrical injuries, large burns or when the person has inhaled smoke.

How serious a burn is depends on what has caused the burn, where the burn is, how large it is, how deep it is, and the age and health of the burned person. If you have any doubt, seek medical help, as it can be hard to know how serious or deep a burn is. Getting good medical care straight away may mean the burn heals more quickly and causes less pain and scarring.

Pain is not always a good indication of when a burn needs medical help. For example some very deep burns do not hurt as much as more shallow, milder burns, because deep burns can damage the nerves.

See Where to go for medical help for out-of-hours and emergency healthcare.

Go to a doctor when:

As well as seeing a doctor straight away, people with these burns also need to go back two days later so the doctor can see what is happening with the burn.

First aid information in other languages

You can find burns first aid information in Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Sudanese Arabic and Vietnamese on this page.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Plastic Surgery Department, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed June 2017. Last updated November 2018.


Page reference: 101208

Review key: HIBUR-30143