In An Emergency

If someone is burned

  • Stop the burning process. Separate the victim from the heat source; if there are flames, smother them with a thick blanket or wet towel. Remove clothing and jewelry.
  • Cool the burned area with lukewarm or cool water for up to 10 minutes.
  • Cover the burned area with a clean, dry cloth—a sheet or pillowcase works well.
    Do not:
    • Apply ice
    • Spread butter, ointments or home remedies over the burn
    • Break burn blisters
  • If there are no blisters and the burn victim is alert and breathing normally, call your family doctor for instruction.
  • If the burned area is blistered or bleeding, or if the burn victim is unconscious or is having trouble breathing, seek emergency medical treatment immediately or call 911.

For adult or pediatric burn emergencies, contact West Penn Burn Center at (412) 894-187, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For medical professionals

The American Burn Association (ABA) recommends that victims with the following burn injuries be transferred to a designated burn treatment facility:

  • Partial thickness burns greater than 10% total body surface area (TBSA)
  • Burns that involve the face, hands, feet, genitalia, perineum, or major joints.
  • Third degree burns in any age group.
  • Electrical burns, including lightning injury.
  • Chemical burns.
  • Inhalation injury.
  • Burn injury in patients with preexisting medical disorders that could complicate management, prolong recovery, or affect mortality.
  • Any patient with burns and concomitant trauma (such as fractures) in which the burn injury poses the greatest risk of morbidity or mortality. In such cases, if the trauma poses the greater immediate risk, the patient may be initially stabilized in a trauma center before being transferred to a burn unit. Physician judgment will be necessary in such situations and should be in concert with the regional medical control plan and triage protocols.
  • Burned children in hospitals without qualified personnel or equipment for the care of children.
  • Burn injury in patients who will require special social, emotional, or rehabilitative intervention.

Excerpted from Guidelines for the Operation of Burn Centers (pp. 79-86).

West Penn Burn Center is the first and only burn center in the region to be verified by the American College of Surgeons and the American Burn Association for care of both adult and pediatric burn patients.

To learn more, visit the American Burn Association website at

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