First Aid for Oil Burns

By Bill, posted
Oil burns have the potential to be far more serious than typical scald injuries from water. These types of burns often occur at home, and sadly in many cases, involving children. Urgent first aid treatment is required in order to minimise soft tissue damage.
Oil burns fall into the wet heat category of burns alongside hot water and steam. Other categories of burns include: dry heat, electricity, extreme cold, chemicals and inhalation.


Oil burns can be serious due to the high boiling point of oil when compared to water and of its potential combustibility. These types of burns can affect any age group, but children are particularly susceptible. Accidents are typically situations where a child has pulled on cooking equipment like a frying pan, or cords from electrical fryers.

Adults statistically still make up the biggest proportion of wet heat burns involving oil. Mainly due to the fact that they are in close proximity with the oil when cooking, and the professional catering industry who are at risk of oil burns as part of their job role. There are many different causes of oil burns but below are the some of the main ones:
  • Pan fires
  • Collisions in the kitchen 
  • Trips and falls 
  • Transporting of hot oil 


Wet heat burns require urgent first aid treatment in order to prevent any further harm. Water is the main thing to remember in these situations. Tepid running water will cool the skin and block the oil from burning the soft tissues. Apply the below three step treatment protocol:
  1. Flush the burnt area of skin with running water (tepid) for a minimum of 20 minutes 
  2. Dress the burn with a burn dressing or cling film 
  3. Seek medical attention where necessary

Helpful hint - When using cling film cut the first few inches off which may be dirty. Then it's best to cut sheets off and apply as opposed to wrapping the affected limb because it will swell and could cause pain.


It's useful to recap on the severity of burns when deciding if a casualty will require hospital treatment.  As a rule of thumb, superficial burns that are bigger than 5% of the body’s surface area, partial thickness burns that are bigger than 1% of the body’s surface area and all full thickness burns should be seen by a medical professional at a hospital.

It's best to call the emergency services when a casualty is showing signs of hypovolaemic shock, has become unresponsive or is completely immobilised due to the severity of their burns.

Helpful hint - All burns involving the infant / child should be seen by a medical professional

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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