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.