From the sun to the stove, we encounter things that can cause burns every day. As one of the most common household injuries, burns can range in severity from minor damage to medical emergencies. Treating a burn depends on where it falls on the spectrum: first, second, third, or fourth degree. Understanding each level will help you determine your treatment options.
A first-degree burn causes minimal skin damage: redness and minor swelling. It’s considered a “superficial” wound because it only affects the outermost layer of skin.
You can perform proper treatment at home:
The affected skin will dry up and peel away during healing, typically lasting seven to 10 days.
Second-degree burns affect skin deeper than the outer layer. These are more serious, as the skin will blister and become very sore and red. It’s necessary to keep the wound clean and properly bandage it to prevent infection.
Never apply ice to burns as it can further damage the skin. If the burn covers a broad area of skin or occurs on the face, hands, feet, groin, or major joint, seek medical treatment. These burns typically heal in three weeks or less.
Third-degree and higher burns are the most severe types, affecting every layer of skin. This level of injury may give the skin a leathery texture or make it look white, waxy, or charred.
Never try to treat a third-degree (or higher) burn at home. Instead:
In addition to avoiding heat sources, wear sunscreen every day to prevent burns. The majority of burns are minor enough to be treated at home. For more severe ones, seek immediate medical attention. Locate your nearest St. Luke’s Health community emergency centers so you can prepare for any medical emergency.
Healthline | Burns: Types, Treatments, and More
MedlinePlus | Burns
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