Kids Cooking: How to tend to a kitchen burn

It seems like a long, long time ago that I taught first aid and CPR to pay my way through university.

I had taken all the swimming lessons possible at our local pool, up through the Red Cross system, Bronze Medallions and Cross, oxygen therapy courses, lifeguard, lifeguard trainer, CPR trainer, and then my teachers finally said:

“Dan, you’ve spent a bunch of cash on all these courses. You should be able to teach them by now – which would help you to recoup the costs!”

And so I did for four years. Although I only worked one summer as a lifeguard (by far my crappiest job ever), I’ve never worked “in the field” as a first responder or any other kind of first-aid related field.

Having kids at home, though, has brought much of my training, practice and demonstrations to point, as I have had to clean and bandage feet cut on shells from the ocean floor, faces cut from flying garden tools (yep), and a bunch of other weird stuff.

Although we strongly encourage our children to work alongside us in the kitchen, there is always the risk that someone will get cut or burned. This post was becoming waaaay too long, so today we’ll just cover burns.  Let me see if I can draw from my training and give you a quick crash course on what you should do if that happens.

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First off, let’s assume that you’ve done your best to PREVENT an accident and followed all the basic kitchen safety rules, like, “don’t put water on a grease fire”, and that you don’t let kids run through the kitchen when you’ve got your hands and/or head in the oven. But somehow, you or your kids have gotten burned.

While most of this will seem to be common sense, you’d be surprised at how crazy some people’s brains go when there is an emergency.  I’ll try to make it as common sense as possible.

How to tend to a kitchen burn

Burns are classified by degrees, and the degree of burn relates to the depth of tissue damage that has taken place.  IN ALL CASES, if you or your child are being burned, the first thing is to remove the heat source (duh). The longer your skin is in contact with something hot, the more serious the burn will become.  (Super geeky Randall Munroe explores what would would happen if you were placed on the surface of the sun for a nano-second. His conclusion? Nothing.)

In the case of a kitchen burn, this may be letting go of the hot pan/pot, or taking hot food off of the skin, or making sure your clothes are no longer on fire. Of course, if you have some hot food or liquid burning your skin, be careful to not spread it around when you’re taking it off. I.e., try not to spread molten sugar around to other parts of your body.

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1st degree burn:

The topmost layer has been damaged by heat. The area will become red, may swell and will likely be painful. The classic example of a first-degree burn is a sunburn.

DO: What do you do to treat a sunburn? Ideally, put the burnt area it under cool water (remember to remove the heat source, i.e. get out of the sun) for about 10-15 minutes in order to remove residual heat in the skin. You should also ideally cover the skin with a bandage of some sort. This is mainly to prevent the skin from being irritated. And kisses, of course, if you’re treating a young one. And Dora or superhero bandaids seem to work too.

DON’T: If you want to put something on the burn, put more water, or something that will moisturize the skin, not oil, butter, egg whites or “this one weird old trick that will shock you”. Also, don’t put ice on it. Your skin has just undergone a certain amount of trauma and needs cooling and soothing, not jarring it with super cold and risking freezing the skin.

2nd degree burn:

Due to more intense heat or longer exposure, you’ll get a 2nd degree burn when the “dermis” or fatty layer of skin has been damaged. It looks like a first degree burn, but is much more painful, and is accompanied by a blister.

DO: Same as first degree burn – but it hurts a LOT, and just putting it under cool water or giving it a kiss will likely not be enough. Try to keep the area cool and moist, and definitely cover it with some kind of bandage (large Dora or superhero bandage).

You may want to take some kind of over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen (i.e. Tylenol or Advil).  If the burn is greater than 3inches, you should really get it checked out by medical professionals. Proportionally smaller areas on kids should be similarly checked out.

DON’T: Don’t pop the blister. Your deep tissue has become damaged and as gross as it may sound, the blister is keeping things under there protected (protection bubble) and moist, and preventing the area from getting infected. Although the blister may get tight and painful, it is better to relieve the pressure with cool compresses than to pop it.

noah pancakes-1

3rd degree burn:

Yikes! This is highly unlikely to happen the home kitchen. However, if you’re at this point, the heat has been so intense, or on for so long that you’ve basically burned through the top layer of skin AND the fat and are now burning muscle. Skin is probably blackened and your clothing may be burned or melted to the body. This is not a pretty one. Your body can go into shock, and your vital signs can be affected i.e. breathing, blood pressure/heart pumping problems.

DO: Call 911 or your local emergency help. Seriously. Call them right away and do whatever they tell you to do. Cover the wound with a moist sterile cloth that will not shed particles (i.e. no tissue paper). Elevate the burned body part or parts with respect to the person’s heart, but no need to go crazy with this. If you are tending to a burn victim, keep talking to the person to gauge their alertness and/or check for vital signs if they’re unconscious.

DON’T: Don’t immerse the wound in cold water. The skin plays a major role in body temperature regulation. If the skin is severely damaged, putting the area in cold water can cause the body’s core temperature to start doing bad and abnormal things. Also, don’t try to remove burnt clothing – you could risk further damaging skin in the area of the burn. Let the professionals take care of that part.

An ounce of prevention… Hopefully you are careful and don’t have to deal with these kinds of injuries in the kitchen (especially the 3rd kind). If they do, keep your cool and take care of the patient before tweeting or Instagramming it, OK?

Do you have a first-aid kit close to the kitchen and do you know how to use it?

About Danny

Danny Bourque is a mechanical engineer who is known at both home and work as either “the geek” or “the numbers guy”. He is very methodical and genuinely loves to analyze almost anything that piques his interest – including food.

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  1. La Torontoise says

    Danny, thank you! I had much fun reading this post, but also learning the emergency tips!
    I mostly have 1st degree burns and felt too lazy to put ice. However, I did believe that ice is an adequate approach to it. Now, I must say, I revise my thinking in the face of the new information in this post…
    Thank you!

  2. lavender, lavender, lavender!

    My husband is a blacksmith and he has a huge bottle of organic lavender essential oil in his blacksmithing shop. I keep one in our kitchen and we always take it camping. Pour it on the burn and waalaa within minutes…NO MORE BURN (for a first and second degree burn…not a third degree burn)! I am seriously not kidding. if there is any residual blistering, putting fresh aloe from a plant you hopefully have in home on it until the skin heals will speed the healing process by 50%! But lavender is the thing for burns.

    here is a link to the history and use of lavender for burns…

  3. What perfect timing for this post! My six year old just burned his arm on a hot cast iron skillet making eggs this morning! Thanks for the tips!

  4. Got a second degree burn yesterday on my hand – super painful! Great tips though – definitely keep them in mind!

  5. Great post! Since my little guy is two he isn’t allowed in the kitchen when I’m doing anything that could be potentially dangerous. However, even with hyper vigilance accidents can still happen. Luckily, we haven’t had any accidents in our year of cooking together! I do keep lavender oil and emu oil in the kitchen in case of any burns.

  6. Great reminder about the first aid kit in the kitchen. I don’t have one, but I should. I’m usually the one who gets hurt. Of course.

  7. From your definitions, I’d say we deal with 1st and 2nd degree burns in my kitchen. I keep an aloe vera plant in the kitchen. After running the burned area (usually finger(s) or a palm under cool running water, I break off a piece of one of the leaves and rub the gel-like interior of that leaf over the burn. I warn the child that for the first few seconds, it may feel like it’s burning more but then the pain goes away. No OTC medication is needed (so far anyway–fingers crossed)

  8. Jon Marsiglia says

    Thank you for outlining what to do in the case of all types of burns, not just surface ones. It is important parents understand that the degree of burn dictates the First Aid treatment. I always recommend that parents get certified in First Aid and CPR for situations such as these. Knowing what to do in the case of a burn can help pain relief, infection control, and recovery time dramatically. Thanks again for sharing!

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