Signs & Symptoms
First-degree burns affect only the outer skin layer. The skin area appears dry, red, and mildly swollen. First-degree burns are painful and sensitive to touch. They should feel better in 1 to 2 days. They heal in about a week.
Second-degree burns affect the skin's outer and lower layers. The skin is painful, swollen, red, and has blisters. The skin also has a weepy, watery surface.
Third-degree burns affect the outer and deeper skin layers and organs below the skin. The skin appears black-and-white and charred. It swells. Tissue under the skin is often exposed. Third-degree burns may have less pain than first-degree or second-degree burns. Why? No pain is felt where nerve endings are destroyed. Pain may be felt around the margin of the burn, though.
Burns can result from dry heat (fire), moist heat (steam, hot liquids), electricity, chemicals, or from radiation, including sunlight. The longer the skin is exposed to the burn source, the worse the burn can be.
Third-degree burns always need emergency care. A second-degree burn needs immediate care if it is on the face, hands, feet, genitals, a joint, or if the burn affects a large area. Self-Care/First Aid treats most first-degree burns and second-degree burns.
Questions to Ask
With or following a burn, do any of these problems exist?
Does the burn affect outer and deeper skin layers and do any of these signs occur?
(Note: See First Aid For Severe Burns Before Emergency Care below.)
Does the burn appear red with swelling, blisters, and pain at the time of the burn? If so, do any of these problems occur?
(Note: Give first aid for burns as needed. See below)
Does a chemical burn affect a large area of the body? Or, does it affect the hands, feet, face, eyes, or genital area?
Do any of these problems occur?
Self-Care / First Aid
For Severe Burns Before Emergency Care
For First-Degree and Second-Degree Burns (that are less than 3â€ in diameter)