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First, second and third degree burns

First, second and third degree burns

There are three degrees of burns and each degree requires a different level of care.

First-degree burns 

A first-degree burn (superficial burn) extends only into the top of the skin (epidermis). These 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 second-degree burns (superficial partial thickness) and can be treated like a first-degree burn.

Sun burntanning bed burn

Second-degree burns

Second-degree burns extend beneath the epidermis and into the dermis. Blisters form and the roof of the blister is dead skin (epidermis). Second-degree burns are divided into two depths.

Superficial partial thickness

These 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 extend into the deeper layers of the dermis.

Deep dermal burns

These burns are usually dry instead of moist and not very painful. Often they are hard to distinguish from third-degree burns. Deep dermal burns heal in three to eight weeks if they don’t become infected. When they heal without specialized care, there is likely to be severe scarring and a great risk for functional impairment. We generally skin graft deep dermal burns to avoid or minimize this.

Second degree burnSecond degree burn

Third-degree burns

Third-degree burns extend all the way through the dermis into the subcutaneous fat. These burns appear white, brown, cherry red or black and may or may not have blisters. We excise and graft these burns within days of the injury, before the wounds can become infected, usually resulting in a shortened hospital stay and improved outcomes.

Third degree hand burnthird degree back burn