Emergency First Aid for Babies and Toddlers

Burns & Insect Stings

Burns -- DO:

  • Run a burn under cool water to bring the temperature down, because skin can keep burning after it's removed from heat.
  • Cover the burn with a dry, clean piece of gauze or bandage.
  • Talk to your doctor about using a medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (e.g., infant or children's Tylenol or Advil), to relieve pain.
  • Call your doctor if the burn covers an area larger than 2 inches across; is on the face, hands, feet, or genital area; or if you have any concerns or doubts about at-home treatment. "Even a sunburn can be serious if it covers enough of the body," says Mark A. Brandenburg, MD, author of Child Safe: A Practical Guide for Preventing Childhood Injuries (Crown).
  • Seek immediate medical attention if the burn affects the mouth, nose, or airway. Check your child's face: If he looks flushed, his tongue or lips are swollen, he's coughing, his voice sounds hoarse or squeaky, or his eyelashes or nose hairs are singed, it could indicate that he's breathed in steam or smoke that burned his airway, which might cut off his air supply.

Burns -- DON'T:

  • Put salve, butter, or Vaseline on the burn. It could introduce bacteria or seal in heat, says Wertz.
  • Break blisters open. That could make them vulnerable to infection.
  • Put ice on a burn. It can decrease blood flow to the skin and cause more damage.

Stings -- DO:

  • Wrap ice in a cloth and apply it to the site of the sting to decrease swelling.
  • Use calamine lotion to soothe itching. Talk to your child's doctor before using antihistamines or topical steroids, such as Benadryl or Cortaid.
  • Head to the ER if your child develops welts or hives on her body.
  • Call 911 if your child starts to cough or if his tongue or lips swell. (His airway might be tightening up.) Allergic reactions to stings can quickly become serious. "In the time it takes to put him in the car and drive to the hospital, he could stop breathing," says Wertz.

Stings -- DON'T:

  • Try to pull on a stinger -- that could squeeze more poison into the skin. Instead, scrape a piece of cardboard or a credit card gently over the stinger to remove it. Research has shown that speed of removal matters more than the method, so if you can't get to a flat object quickly, use your fingernail to scrape the stinger away.

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