Bitumen Burns

The same 4-step process for all burns remains with a few additional considerations for bitumen burn.


Remove clothing or items immediately from effected area

Cool the burn until the bitumen is completely cooled.


Cool for 20 minutes with cool running water. This can still be done up to 3 hours after injury.  

*Remove jewellery, rings, watches


Once cooled, cover in cling film

Tar removal is not an emergency and may be delayed until arrival at the burn service.


Once at a Burn Service or medical facility, the bitumen can be removed

This can be achieved with an oil-based solvent such petroleum jelly, vegetable, paraffin or baby oil.

Call 000 or present to your nearest emergency department if the following applies:

  • Burns of special areas – face, hands, feet, genitalia, perineum, major Joints and circumferential limb or chest burns 
  • Burns with potential inhalation injury 
  • Electrical burns 
  • Chemical burns 
  • Burns with pre-existing illness 
  • Burns associated with other injuries 
  • Burns at the extremes of age – young children and the elderly. 
  • Burn injury in pregnant women 
  • Non-accidental burns 
  • If you are concerned  
  • Pain not managed with simple over the counter analgesia  
  • Available dressings unable to contain and cover injury

When to call a doctor?  

Most minor burns can be treated with first-aid, however, if the burn is severe you will need to seek medical help or call 000.  

If the burn is deep you may want to follow up with your GP to see if you need further care or an updated tetanus shot.