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I hate burns - A paramedic tells you all you need to know about burns

I hate burns

It doesn’t matter which industry you are in, there is always some job at work that you just don’t like doing. If you work in hospitality, it might be emptying the bins. If you are corporate, it might be attending the monthly meeting. For me as an Intensive Care Paramedic (ICP) I hate going to burns.

In my time on the job, I have been to many burns patients and they just don’t get any easier. I once attended a sex worker who was doused in petrol and set alight by one of her clients.  It was heart breaking. But I guess a more appropriate story to tell for this blog is that of the 9-year-old boy who went to visit his grandmother. He was so excited to see her, that when he did, he ran over to give her a big hug and hit her with pace throwing her off balance. At the same time grandma was emptying the spaghetti from the saucepan into the strainer. She fell off balance and that boiling water scolded the little boy. The water went down his neck and down his back. In the chaos, grandma picked him up and ran him upstairs to cool the burn. Unfortunately, in a panic, she turned on the hot water.

Burns are horrible! Not only can they be life threatening, but they are cosmetically devastating and painful. But there is one good thing about burns. One great thing about burns. One thing that even an ICP who has been to too many burns can say is fantastic.

So what’s so good about burns? 

The answer:  what you do in the moments immediately after the burn injury makes a huge difference! As a first aider your actions could be the difference between life and death, they could be the difference between scarring or not scarring, or (in my opinion) most importantly they could be the difference between pain and no pain.

So what do you do if someone is burnt?

  1. Cool, cool cool! Cool the burn using cold running water for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes means twenty minutes! It doesn’t mean five, ten or fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes has been clinically proven to stop the burning process. If you do it for less than twenty minutes the burn continues to burn! Remember to remove clothing while cooling, if the clothing is lifting the skin, just leave it but continue to cool.
  2. After twenty minutes of cooling, cover the burn surface area with cling wrap in a longitudinal direction (length ways). This will protect the wound from infection and also cover the nerve endings, reducing pain. Remember, only cover with cling wrap after the burn has been cooled. Do not do it before as the cling wrap can also keep the heat in.


  1. Prevention is better than cure. The number one way we paramedics see burns in babies is scalds while feeding. This may be breast or bottle feeding. At the same time mum is drinking a hot cup of tea or coffee. Newborns have the startle reflex and sometimes they kick the bottom of the cup resulting in a scald. So please don’t drink hot drinks while feeding your child.
  2. If your child has been scalded and you are cooling the burn remember to remove the nappy. Nappies hold in liquid and if they are not removed, they will hold in hot water resulting in genital burns.


For more useful information and practical hands-on tips book into one our many paediatric first aid courses run Australia wide. Check out our website

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