Overview of burn depths
Partial thickness burns:
First degree burns (superficial):
- May blister and peel in a few days (ie. sunburn).
- Heals in 3-6 days
- Generally no scarring
- Topical creams provide relief
- Antibiotics not needed
- Drink water
Second degree burns (deeper partial thickness):
- Blisters are typical.
- Heals in 14-21 days.
- Blisters provide biologic dressing and comfort. (Don’t be in a hurry to break the blisters.)
- Once blisters break, red raw surface will be very painful.
- Usually do not require surgery.
Full thickness burns:
Third degree burns (full thickness):
- Waxy, white, tan or charred and possibly blistered.
- Swelling and hair loss are always present.
- May have areas of no sensation because the nerve endings are damaged.
- The area surrounding the full thickness burn is usually painful.
- Natural healing of small burns is possible but with risk of infection and scarring.
- Surgery is usually required.
Fourth degree (deep full thickness):
- Charred and hard to the touch.
- The burn extends past the dermis into the tissue, muscle and bone.
- Even after the skin is no longer in contact with the heat source, damage may continue in the remaining cells.