If a person gets badly burned, they may need help until an ambulance arrives. A burn might be from hot metal or electricity, or it might be from hot liquid or steam, or it might be from a chemical or acid. There may also be damage to the person’s throat, airway, and lungs caused by breathing in smoke or gas.

Quick help

  • Call 111 for an ambulance if the area of the burn is larger than half the person’s arm; is causing severe pain; involves the eyes; or has been caused by a chemical or bitumen. 
  • Check that the person is happy for you to touch them before you give first aid. If they are unconscious and you need to check for injuries or give lifesaving first aid, then don’t delay. 
  • Cool the burn by pouring cool liquid over it for at least 20 minutes. 
  • Cover the burn by using a non-adhesive dressing or loose cling film.


What to look for

Burned skin: The person’s skin may be white, red, black, or peeling. Watery liquid may be leaking from the injured area. 

A dry cough: Fire or smoke may have damaged the person’s airway.

How you can help 


  • Break blisters or remove peeled skin. 
  • Try to remove any material that’s stuck to a burn. 
  • Apply creams or lotions – that may lead to infection. 
  • Put small children or babies into a cold bath or shower for a full 20 minutes - that could cause hypothermia. Remember to cool the burn not the child, so use cool (NOT cold) water. 


First: Cool the burn

  • Pour cool water over the burn for at least 20 minutes. You can use any cool, clean liquid, even a soft drink. 
  • If the burn is on a foot or a hand, you can place it in a bowl or bucket of water if that’s easier than pouring water over it. 
  • Remove any tight clothing or jewellery near the burn because of possible swelling.  
  • Remove any clothes that have been splashed with hot liquid or chemicals. 

Then: Cover the burn

  • Cover the burn with a sterile dressing if you have one handy. 
  • Or wrap cling film or a plastic bag loosely around it. 
  • Don’t use a sticky bandage/dressing because it may harm the skin around the burn. 
  • Don’t use cling film on the face. 

 Chemical burns

  • Call 111 for an ambulance urgently. 
  • Remove any contaminated clothing.  
  • If the chemical is a powder, carefully brush it off.  
  • Soak the area with lots of water. 
  • If the burn affects eyes, rinse eyes and under the eyelids with water. 
  • If bitumen (used for road surfacing or roofing) is on the person’s skin, very carefully try to crack the bitumen with scissors taking care not to damage the skin underneath.

Burns in mouth or throat due to smoke or gas inhalation

  • There may be damage to the person’s throat, airway, and lungs. 
  • Move the person to a safe area, preferably outside into fresh air. 
  • If the person finds it hard to breathe help them find a position that makes it easier to breathe, with their head and chest raised.

 Clothing on fire

  • Smother the flames with a coat or blanket if you can.
    1. Stop the person running around or waving their arms
    2. Drop the person onto the ground.
    3. Roll the person on the ground to put the fire out.
  • Then: Cool the burns with lots of water.


  • DO NOT burst blisters. 
  • Cool the burn with running water for 20 minutes. 
  • Use sunburn ointment if it’s not a serious burn. 
  • Make sure the person drinks lots of water. 
  • Seek medical help if the person is feeling unwell or if there is a large area affected by the sunburn.


If you have a person in urgent need of medical attention, call 111 now.
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