What do you do when your child is scalded? We will assume it is a small patch on the hand and not a serious scalding involving the whole body, and we will assume the liquid is a bowl of hot chinese dessert.
1. Wipe away the dessert with a towel?
2. Soak hand in ice water or a bucket of ice cube?
3. Put hand under the tap for a few minutes?
4. Apply dubious ointment?
5. Break the blisters?
6. Apply butter?
First of all, it is useful to learn about the different types of burns. Burns are classified into first degree, second degree and third degree burn. It would be useful to know the difference so that you know how serious the burn is.
You should bring your child to the doctor as soon as possible, but in the mean time, you can perform some simple first aid. E.g.
1. Instead of using a wet towel to clean the hand, just put the affected hand under running tap for at least 5-10 minutes to cool down the hand. It will clean the hand at the same time. Using the towel is bad because the rubbing will break any blisters that may form, it will be painful, and the fluff of the towel will stick to the wound.
2. Do NOT put the hand in ice or ice water.
3. Do not apply ointment, butter, honey,etc. This will interfere with what the doctor is going to do later on when the child is brought to the doctor. Oily, sticky ointment and things like butter and honey stick to the wound and are hard to clean off. They don’t even help and may cause infection. The doctors and nurses will spend unnecessary time, inflicting unnecessary pain, just to get the stuff off before they can do what they are supposed to do.
4. If there are blisters, do not break the blisters. Exposed wound is more prone to infection.
5. While the skin is healing, the key thing is to prevent infection. The wound may need to be cleaned and the dressing changed frequently. Follow the doctor’s instruction on this.
6. There are burn dressings available from pharmacies. Some are medicated so that all you need to do is simply clean the wound and apply the dressing.
What happened to us?
Did we do all the right thing when our little toddler got scalded? Sad to say, no. Once again, we didn’t know what to do and in the panic of the moment, did all the wrong things. Old folks present at the time went cleaning and rubbing (ouch!) and applied some ointment which the doctor had to spend time removing. We didn’t put the hand under the tap for long enough. The only right thing we did was to bring the child to the nearest clinic as soon as possible.
The doctor, after spending a fair amount of time cleaning the ointment off the wound (more ouch!), applied some burn medication that had some local anesthetic in it. This really helped because it numbed the pain. The hand was dressed and for the next one week, we had to bring the kid to the clinic every other day to clean the wound and change the dressing.
Surprisingly, the next day, the boy was his usual self and the hand didn’t seem to affect him much, except it was rather inconvenient for movement with all that dressing on it. He didn’t even cry a bit when the dressings were changed and would just sit quietly and let the doctor clean and change his dressing.
The change of dressing part seemed really easy because what the doctor did was simply use one of those burn dressings available from pharmacies. She would clean the wound with some antiseptic solution, and apply the medicated dressing. Over the dressing, she wrap some gauze to prevent Damien from getting to the wound. We had to keep that hand dry, so everyday, during bath time, we would put a plastic bag over the hand and secure it with masking tape. This prevented the water from getting to the hand.
The wound healed within a week and not a bit of scar was visible. Even the doctor was amazed at the rate it healed.
Apart from the first aid procedures and the obvious fact of not leaving hot stuff within a toddler’s reach, there are 2 things I learned from this episode :
1. The crying and screaming is just as much out of fear. It will help tremendously to stay calm and try to soothe the fear. To have all the adults paying serious attention on the child all at once and panic written over everyone’s face will not help.
2. Children’s skin heals amazingly fast and well. So there is no need to worry too much about it if the appropriate medical attention is given and the skin is kept from infection.
Further Reading :
What to do with burns : http://www.drgreene.org/body.cfm?id=49&action=Display&articlenum=30
Disclaimer : The information shared in this article is not meant to substitute professional medical advice. Please bring your child to the doctor if you have questions or concerns regarding the health of your child.