Burns 101: First, Second, and Third Degree Burns
You’ve had a busy day, and without thinking you try to pick up a hot casserole pan with your bare hands. Searing pain radiates from the burn site, and blisters begin forming. You know you’re going to have a nasty burn, but is it a first, second, or third degree burn? What’s the best way to treat it so you can heal quickly?
Burns are categorized into first, second, and third degree burns based off the burn’s severity. According to the American Burn Association, 450,000 people require medical attention for burns each year. While minor burns can often be treated at home, knowing what type of burn you have will help you decide if you need to treat the burn at home, visit an urgent care center or emergency room, or even call 911 right away.
Treating First, Second, and Third Degree Burns
Burns can come from hot surfaces, the sun, gas or kerosene, liquids, open flames, chemicals, electrical accidents, and other sources. However, the cause of the burn does not always determine the degree of the burn.
- First Degree Burns are the most minor type of burns and often can be treated at home. Only the outermost layer is affected. The area will be red, painful, and swollen, but no blisters will be present. The burn should heal in about 3-6 days or until the outer skin layer sheds. Treatment for first degree burns may include:
- Soaking the burn in cool (not cold) water for five minutes
- Applying burn creams, aloe vera, or antibiotic ointment
- Covering the burn with loose gauze
- Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain and swelling
- Second Degree Burns damage two skin layers, causing blotchy, red skin and blisters. Sometimes the skin will ooze, swell, or appear wet when blisters burst. Second degree burns can heal in about 2-3 weeks depending on severity and treatment method. Most second degree burns can be treated as minor burns if the burn area is no more than 2-3 inches, but seek medical help if you feel your burn is severe. Treatment for second degree burns may include:
- Keeping the area away from the air by using bandages
- Refraining from popping blisters to avoid infection
- Skin grafting in severe cases
- Third Degree Burns are the most serious and potentially life-threatening type of burns.* All charred skin layers are completely destroyed, and muscle, fat, the bloodstream, nerves, major organs, and bones may be affected. This type of burn requires immediate treatment via 911. The extent of skin damage can have painful effects for months, if not years. Treatment for third degree burns may include:
- Removing smoldering material from burn site
- Keeping the burn elevated above the heart
- Extensive Surgery
- Skin grafts
- Physical Therapy
- Assisted extended care
No matter what type of burn you think you might have, the key to reducing pain and infection is to treat the burn right away. If you suffer from a first or second degree burn, FastMed Urgent Care is here to assist you. With extended hours every day and on holidays and weekends, there’s a location nearby ready to provide prompt, quality burn treatment.