First Aid FAQs…

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Commonly asked questions regarding burn first aid include:

Q. What is the best method of burn first aid?

A. 20 minutes of cool running water, which is useful for up to 3 hours after injury

Q. Can I use ice to cool the burn?

Definitely not. NEVER use ice or iced water on burns. The extreme cold causes constriction of the blood vessels and can worsen injury by reducing blood supply.

Q. Can I use ointments such as papaya or aloe vera, egg whites or toothpaste?

A. No. The purpose of first aid is to cool the burn affected skin and minimise underlying tissue damage. Whilst ointments are soothing, they have no cooling properties. They may be useful after cooling (first aid) is complete in minor epidermal burns such as sunburn. There is no scientific evidence regarding the healing properties of egg whites and they would not have any cooling properties, and toothpaste belongs on teeth and has no place in burn care.

Q. Can I use hydrogel dressings instead?

A. The gold standard for first aid is 20 minutes of cool running water. Scientific studies using porcine models showed a statistically favourable difference in cooling with 20 minutes of cool running water versus cooling with 20 minutes of two hydrogel dressings.

Hydrogel dressings can be used for first aid in situations where there is no access to water. Hydrogel dressings do have a place in burn wound care, which occurs after first aid is complete

The Alfred Hospital gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support and contribution of Skilled Medical in funding this project.  For more information on Skilled Medical, please visit
Supported by:

Ambulance Victoria The Alfred Victorian Adult Burn Services at The Alfred The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne