Nearly 28,000 children are treated for burns in hospitals each year. Burns are among the most painful injuries for children because they damage sensitive nerve endings on the surface of the skin. "Children's skin is much thinner than adults', so they get deeper burns at much lower levels of heat," explains Dr. Silver. The seriousness of a burn is judged by how deeply the tissue is affected and how big it is. Small (quarter-size) or superficial burns can usually be treated at home, but see a doctor immediately for a blistering burn that involves the hands, feet, genitals, or face, or one that covers a large area, such as a forearm or leg.
Though burns to children most often occur in the kitchen or bathroom, playgrounds can also be high-risk. On hot days, touch the inside of your wrist to metal handrails, slides, and swings to test the heat level.
Be on the alert for potential scald burns in restaurants, particularly when hot liquids are brought to the table. "I never seat my daughter on the outside of a booth," notes paramedic Butman. "This helps take her out of the risk zone when the waitress swings a tray of hot food over our heads."
Should a burn occur, immediately plunge the injured area into cool water (never use ice) to help alleviate pain and prevent further progression of the burn, experts advise. Then cover the burn with a cold, moistened cloth for about 15 minutes. A small first-degree burn, which causes mild redness, warmth, and discomfort after soaking, can be treated at home, as can small second-degree burns, which cause blistering or oozing. Still, call your doctor and watch for infection. For larger or third-degree burns (white or charred skin, or skin that's very red and weepy-looking), call 911 or your local emergency service.