First-, second-, and third-degree burn treatment
There are three degrees of burns and each degree requires a different level of care.
A first-degree burn (superficial burn) extends only into the top of the skin (epidermis). Such burns never blister; they are painful and heal in three to four days without scarring. Burns initially appearing as first degree may blister within 12 hours, in which case they are not first-degree burns after all. They are very superficial second-degree burns and can be treated like a second-degree burn.
Second-degree burns extend beneath the top layer of skin (epidermis) and into the second layer (dermis). Blisters form and the roof of the blister is dead skin (epidermis). Second-degree burns are divided into two depths:
Superficial partial thickness burns extend only through the first half of the dermis and generally heal in 10–14 days. Beneath the blister, these wounds are usually pink, moist, and painful and heal with minimal or no scarring or impairment.
Deep partial thickness burns may take up to 20 days to heal. These burns may cause a color (pigmentation) change in the skin or scarring. Scar management including pressure garments and massage may be need.
Third-degree (full thickness) burns extend all the way through the second layer of skin (dermis). These burns appear white, brown, cherry red, or black and may or may not have blisters. A third degree burn needs specialized treatment by a burn specialist. These burns may require surgery.
Meet our physiciansElizabeth L. Dale, M.D.
Petra Warner, M.D., FACS