Burns and scalds

​This information will help with any questions you may have after sustaining a burn or scald.

First aid

  • Run the burn or scald under cool water for 20 minutes or until the burning feeling begins to settle.
  • We may continue to cool the burn under water when you arrive to the Emergency Department (ED).
  • Immediate cooling is vital to stop further damage to the skin.
  • Cover the burn with a damp, clean cloth or clothing, you can also use loosely applied cling film, ensuring it is not too tight.
  • Do not pop any blisters this will be done by someone trained and in a clean environment.
  • Do not apply any creams as this can make the burn worse.

The healing process

In the ED we will apply a suitable dressing and advise you if any further dressing changes are required.

Further dressing changes can be done by your treatment room nurse based at your GP surgery; you will need to call them to arrange an appointment.

Healing can take 14-21 days. Smaller and very superficial burns may take less.

We may feel it necessary to refer you to the Burns Specialist team (Adults: Southmead Hospital, Children: Bristol Children's Hospital). If so, you will be given a follow up appointment before your discharge from the ED.

Staying hydrated by drinking well and having a healthy diet will help with healing.

Once the burn is healed it is important to protect that area from the sun, it will be more susceptible to burning. Use a high factor sun cream or keep covered with clothing when in the sun.

How to look after your dressing

  • Keep your dressing dry and clean at all times and cover the dressing when bathing or showering.
  • Ensure you have your dressing changed as advised by a health care professional.
  • If your dressing becomes dirty or falls off apply a temporary covering such as loose cling film or damp clean cloth and seek medical advice for a new dressing.
  • When a dressing is no longer needed you will be advised of this. The area can appear dry, you can apply a non-perfumed moisturiser to the affected area.

Monitor for signs of infection

If you notice any of these signs you must seek medical advice as you might have an infection.

  • Redness surrounding the dressing.
  • Feeling feverish or unwell.
  • Severe pain at the sight of the burn.
  • Unusual colour leaking through the dressing.
  • Offensive smelling odour.

Pain relief  

  • You will be given appropriate pain relief while you are in the ED undergoing treatment for your burn.
  • You can take regular paracetamol and/or ibuprofen for your burn.
  • You can take pain relief such as paracetamol and/or ibuprofen an hour before your next scheduled dressing change.


British Burns Association (2021) www.britishburnassociation.org/patient-advice

© North Bristol NHS Trust. This edition published April 2024. Review due April 2027. NBT002439.

Burns and scalds

Contact Emergency Department (ED)

Gate 35, Level 0
Brunel building
Southmead Hospital
Southmead Road
BS10 5NB

Emergency Department Main Reception Gate 35: 0117 4145100 or 0117 4145101