Burns: Symptom Management

Pain management and burn care

Most children with burns have pain. The amount of pain depends on the severity and location of the burn. Severe pain can make your child's stay in the hospital very scary. Your child will be given pain medicine through an intravenous (IV) line or by mouth before wound care and as needed. Many parents worry that their child may become addicted to pain medicine. This is very rare, because children are given such small amounts of pain medicine for short time periods. If you have more questions about pain medicine, please ask your child's healthcare provider.

If old enough, your child can help control the pain by rating it with a scoring tool. This will help the healthcare team know when and how much pain medicine to give so that your child can be more comfortable. The nurses and child life therapist can help your child control the pain. The nurse and child life therapist can help you find ways to comfort and distract your child to decrease his/her anxiety.

Itching and burn care

Most children who have suffered from a burn injury usually experience itching at some point during the healing process. Itching may happen the the area of the burn, a skin graft, or the area the graft was taken from. Sometimes, it begins right away, but it may also happen several weeks or months into the healing process. Itching is more likely to happen in younger children, and  those with dry skin or thicker scars. Itching can range from a minor irritation to severe discomfort that can interfere with daily activities. While there is no "cure" for itching, the condition diminishes over time. In the meantime, there are things that you can do for your child to lessen his or her discomfort:

  • Keep the area moist with creams. Try to avoid lotions, as they may contain alcohol, which can dry the skin.

  • Avoid creams that contain perfumes, which may cause more irritation to the area.

  • Topical corticosteroids (such as hydrocortisone) may be recommended by your child's healthcare provider.

  • Cool or cold compresses may help provide relief.

  • There are other medicines that your child's healthcare provider may prescribe. These include antihistamines and/or oral steroids to help with itching.

Specific treatment will be determined by your child's healthcare provider based on the following:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the pain or discomfort

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the healing

  • Your opinion or preference