How To Recognise and Treat a Burn

First aid, News from St John - 15 Jun 2023

Queenslanders have a knack for embracing the cosy ambience of winter. Whether it is gathering around a fireplace, snuggling up with a soothing hot water bottle on a chilly evening or enjoying a hot cup of tea.  

However, with these activities it is important to be mindful of potential risks, an increase in burns or scalds if we are not careful. 

What are burns? 

Burns can be caused by flame, UV radiation, hot liquids, electricity, lightning, and certain chemicals. Major burns are a medical emergency and require urgent medical attention. In some cases, skin graft surgery is needed*  

According to Queensland Health there are three levels of burns: 

Superficial – these burns cause damage to the first or top layer of skin. The burn site will be red and painful. 

Partial thickness – includes damage to the first and second skin layers. The burn site will be red, peeling, blistering, and swelling with clear or yellow-coloured fluid leaking from the skin. The burn site is very painful. 

Full thickness – involves damage to both skin layers, plus the underlying tissues, muscle, bone, and organs. The burn site appears black or charred with white exposed fatty tissue or bone. Yellow in the wound is likely to be exposed muscle tissue. The nerve endings are destroyed and, therefore, there is little, or no pain experienced at the site of the full thickness burn. However, surrounding partial thickness burns will be very painful.  

First Aid for burns:  

  1. 1. Follow DRSABCD. Danger, Response, send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and Defibrillation. 
  2. 2.  If the burn is severe or if it involves the airway, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance. 
  3. 3. As soon as possible, hold the burnt area under cool running water for 20 minutes.
  4. 4.  Remove any clothing and jewelry from the burnt area unless they are stuck to the burn. 
  5. 5. Cover the burn with a light, loose non-stick dressing, preferably clean, dry, non-fluffy material for example plastic cling
  6. 6. Continue to check the patient for shock and treat if necessary.

Some important don’ts 

  • Do not apply lotions, ointments, fat, or ice to a burn.
  • Do not touch the injured areas or burst any blisters.
  • Do not remove anything sticking to the burn. 
  • If the burn is larger than a 20-cent piece, or deep, seek medical aid.

If the patient’s clothing is on fire. 

 1 Stop the patient from moving around. 

 2 Drop the patient to the ground and cover or wrap them in a blanket or similar, if available.  

3 Roll the patient along the ground until the flames are extinguished. 

4 Manage the burn.  

Want to know more?

St John Ambulance Queensland has you covered when it comes to burns. We understand the importance of being well-prepared and equipped to handle burn emergencies. That is why we offer comprehensive training through our Provide First Aid (HLTAD011) course, which includes a dedicated module on burns.

The Provide First Aid course is designed to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide effective first aid in a wide range of emergency situations, including burns. 

By enrolling in this course, you can gain valuable insights into recognising diverse types of burns, understanding their severity, and administering appropriate first aid techniques.

In addition to our training courses, St John Ambulance Queensland also offers specialised First Aid kits tailored specifically for burn emergencies.

Our Burns First Aid Kit is designed to provide you with the necessary tools and supplies to effectively manage burn injuries until professional medical help arrives.

The kit includes essential items such as burn dressings and sterile bandages.

You can find the Burns First Aid Kit (640064) here, making it easily accessible for individuals, families, and workplaces.

At St John Ambulance Queensland, we are committed to empowering individuals to take proactive measures in ensuring the safety and well-being of themselves and others.

By offering training courses and specialised First Aid kits, we aim to equip you with the necessary resources to handle burn emergencies with confidence and efficiency.

Remember, burns can happen at any time, and it is crucial to be prepared, having the knowledge and tools to recognise and treat burns can make a significant difference in minimising damage and improving recovery options.


  • St John Ambulance – burns factsheet – 
  • Queensland Health burns guidelines –