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Bonfire Safety: How to treat burns

Dr Prudence Knight photo

Created: 5 November, 2018

Updated: 12 November, 2018

With all the excitement that the 5th November brings, we can all lose sight of the dangers surrounding bonfire night and the profound effect it can have on our health!

Whether you’re gathering round a bonfire this evening with your family or watching a fireworks display, make sure you know what to do if you encounter a burn injury, no matter how serious.

We’ve put together some useful insights on what to do if you or someone you know experiences a burn injury and how you can immediately treat it to help prevent severe damage and increase the speed of recovery.


How to handle sparklers safely

Did you know that sparklers burn at around the same temperature as welding torch? It is paramount that you take extra care when handling sparklers, particularly when allowing children to hold them. It’s also worth noting that safety experts don’t recommend children under 5 years old use sparklers.

Always make sure:

  • Anyone who chooses to handle a sparkler is wearing gloves, to avoid hand injuries
  • Hold the sparkler at arm’s length and avoid holding them near other people
  • Place the sparkler in a bucket of cold water as soon as it’s finished

Here's a really simple life hack for parents with young children, that makes sparklers easier and safer to hold! 



What’s the difference between first, second and third-degree burns?

First degree burns only affect the top layer of skin. Common first-degree burn symptoms:

  • Minor swelling
  • Turn red
  • Pain


Second-degree burns affect the top two layers of the skin. Common second degree burn symptoms:

  • Blistering
  • Swelling
  • Dry and blotchy with redness of the skin
  • Usually a lot of pain


Third-degree burns are full thickness burns, meaning they affect the deeper tissues. Common third-degree burn symptoms:

  • White, brown or charred skin
  • Dry, waxy skin
  • Painless


In the event of burning yourself, what immediate action should I take?

If someone has experienced a burn, it is important to move them away from the source of the heat as soon as possible.

Hold the burn under cold running water for around 10-20 minutes, which should help ease the pain. DO NOT use ice, ice packs and avoid creams or greasy substances which can increase the chances of infection.

Do not attempt to pop or remove blisters.

Remove any clothing or jewellery which is close to the burn, however do not remove anything that is stuck to the skin itself as this can cause further injury.

If you’re experiencing pain, use painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

You can also cover the burn with one layer of cling film to help keep it clean.

If outdoors, make sure you keep the casualty warm with a blanket or multiple layers of clothing, avoiding the burnt area.


Should I seek medical attention?

Whilst small and minor burns can be easily treated at home, in some circumstances it is recommended you seek medical attention immediately to help with treatment and recovery.

You should seek medical attention if:

  • You or the injured person is pregnant
  • Children under the age of 5
  • Aged 60 years and over
  • If you’ve experienced a large or deep burn injury
  • If the burn has caused white, brown or charred skin
  • Burns that have caused blisters especially those on the face, hands or genitals
  • Any chemical or electrical burn, even if small
  • If you’re experiencing symptoms of shock, which include sweating, weakness, dizziness or short, rapid breathing


You should call 999 or 112 in the event of an emergency.

Topics: Health and Wellbeing, Winter Health, Expert health advice