Cool Running Water Is The Best Initial Treatment for Burns in Children

Using cool running water is the best initial treatment for child’s burn, a new research, published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine had revealed. The researchers found that, running water can minimise the extent or depth of the burn, speed up healing and reduce the chance that a child may need admission to a burn unit, requiring burn excision and skin grafting.

Using Butter to Treat Burn


When a child suffers a burn, many parents may reach for ice, aloe Vera, butter, or even toothpaste. Many of these home remedies are often folklore and passed down through generations. But the reality is that while these are not only ineffective approaches, they ignore the principles of burn care and wound management.

“Cool running water is most effective immediately after a burn occurs, but evidence suggests it remains

beneficial for up to three hours following an injury.”

Does running water reduce admission?

In fact, administering any amount of cool running water was associated with a reduction in the odds of hospital admission by almost 36%, and reduced the odds of requiring an operative procedure (burn excision and skin grafting) by nearly 43 percent.

Also among children who did not require skin grafting, the speed of healing was faster with the administration of any cool running water. This is clinically important because more rapid healing reduces the risk of scarring and subsequent pain.

The study confirmed that children with burns cooled with running water had a better clinical outcome compared to those whom received no first aid at all, or an alternative to running water, such as aloe Vera, gels, compresses, toothpaste, butter or egg whites.

The study demonstrated that children who received appropriate first aid that consisted of 20 minutes or more of cooling with running water had more than a 40% reduction in the odds of requiring skin grafting.

How long is enough?

It is not clear at this time how long you need to cool a burn with running water therapy. But the Australian Burn Association, British Burn Association and European Burns Association all recommend 20 minutes of running water.

The American Burn Association recommends 5 or more minutes and the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance (UK) both endorse 10 minutes or longer. But the present study argues for a full 20 minutes.

“Whether you are a parent or paramedic, administering 20 minutes of cool running water to a child’s burn is highly recommended. This is the most effective way to lessen the severity of tissue damage from all thermal burns,” said Dr. Griffin.


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