There are 3 different degrees of burn:

  • Superficial or 1st Degree
    • burns only affect the outer layer of the skin (epidermis)
    • redness & swelling seen with sharp burning pain but skin will heal naturally leaving no scarring within a week or so.
  • Partial Thickness or 2nd Degree
    • both the outer layer (epidermis) and the under layer (dermal layer) are affected by the burn
    • blistering, redness & swelling and sever pain felt – with treatment often the skin can heal without skin grafts and can leave scarring.
  • Full Thickness or 3rd Degree
    • both the outer layer & under layer are totally destroyed and deeper tissue layers, muscles and even bone can be affected by the burn
    • skin can appear charred, white or black
    • Pain on the burn site is often reduced as the nerve endings can be completely destroyed but the surrounding burn area is extremely painful.
    • The Burn site looses sensation and skin grafts are necessary for survival.
To work out the likelihood of survival from burns use this simple calculation:
  • Age of patient + % burnt
The lower the better - but the rule of thumb is that anything over 100 is extremely bad news.

Treatment for Burns: The treatment depends on what kind of burn you have. If a first- or second-degree burn covers an area larger than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, or is on your face, hands, feet or genitals, you should see a doctor right away. Third-degree burns require emergency medical attention.

Do not put butter, oil, ice or ice water on burns. This can cause more damage to the skin.

First-degree burn

Soak the burn in cool water. Then treat it with a skin care product like aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment. To protect the burned area, you can put a dry gauze bandage over the burn. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol), ibuprofen (some brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (brand name: Aleve), to help with the pain.

Second-degree burn

Soak the burn in cool water for 15 minutes. If the burned area is small, put cool, clean, wet cloths on the burn for a few minutes every day. Then put on an antibiotic cream, or other creams or ointments prescribed by your doctor. Cover the burn with a dry nonstick dressing (for example, Telfa) held in place with gauze or tape. Check with your doctor's office to make sure you are up-to-date on tetanus shots.

Change the dressing every day. First, wash your hands with soap and water. Then gently wash the burn and put antibiotic ointment on it. If the burn area is small, a dressing may not be needed during the day. Check the burn every day for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, swelling or pus. If you see any of these signs, see your doctor right away. To prevent infection, avoid breaking any blisters that form.

Burned skin itches as it heals. Keep your fingernails cut short and don't scratch the burned skin. The burned area will be sensitive to sunlight for up to one year.

Third-degree burn

For third-degree burns, go to the hospital right away. Don't take off any clothing that is stuck to the burn. Don't soak the burn in water or apply any ointment. You can cover the burn with a sterile bandage or clean cloth until you receive medical assistance.

Do Not's for Burns

  • DO NOT apply ointment, butter, ice, medications, fluffy cotton dressing, adhesive bandages, cream, oil spray, or any household remedy to a burn. This can interfere with proper healing.
  • DO NOT allow the burn to become contaminated. Avoid breathing or coughing on the burn.
  • DO NOT disturb blistered or dead skin.
  • DO NOT remove clothing that is stuck to the skin.
  • DO NOT give the person anything by mouth, if there is a severe burn.
  • DO NOT immerse a severe burn in cold water. This can cause shock.
  • DO NOT place a pillow under the person's head if there is an airway burn and he or she is lying down. This can close the airway.