Burns: Learn The Different Degrees and How to Respond
Burns are among the most common household injuries. They can happen when the skin is exposed to:
- Ultraviolet light
- Hot liquid
- Flammable liquids or gases
Minor burns typically heal on their own without treatment. More severe burns, however, require treatment to prevent infection, shock, or death. Knowing the type of burn you have—and its symptoms—can help prevent serious complications…or worse.
What type of burn is it?
Burns are classified by degrees, and each has different symptoms and requires different kinds of treatment. Here are the classifications:
- First-degree burns – Red, non-blistered skin affecting only the outer layer of skin.
- Second-degree burns – Redness and thickening skin with blisters that may ooze. This burn extends to the second layer of skin.
- Third-degree burns – White, charred, or leathery appearance. May damage underlying bones, muscles, and tendons.
Burn symptoms and what you need to do.
As mentioned above, the signs and symptoms of burns are different for burns of different severity. Your State Urgent Care provider will evaluate the amount of skin or body surface area that the burn covers and assess the level of risk for complications, such as infection, dehydration, and disfigurement.
- First-degree burns produce redness, tenderness, pain and some swelling. If a large area of skin is involved, occasionally low grade will occur. Sunburn is an example of a first-degree burn. WHAT TO DO: First-degree burns can be treated at home. Run cool water over the area for 10 to 15 minutes. If that isn’t an option, use a cool compress on the burn. Do not apply ice to a burn, as it can further damage the skin. See your State Urgent Care provider if any problems persist.
- Second-degree burns include all the symptoms of a first-degree burn along with blistering of the skin. WHAT TO DO: Fluid-filled blisters should not be broken. See your State Urgent Care provider as soon as possible.
- Third-degree burns may go beyond the first three layers of skin and could involve all skin layers, including nerve endings and occasionally underlying muscle. They can even make it to the bone. There may be no pain in the initial stages because the nerve endings have been damaged or destroyed. WHAT TO DO: Call 911 immediately. Burns of this severity should be treated at the nearest emergency room. Do not remove any articles of clothing, although it’s imperative to make sure the clothes are no longer in contact with the source of the burn. Cover the burned area with a cool, moist cloth and raise the burned area above the heart.