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What Do the Degrees of Burn Injury Mean?

Wilson & McQueen May 27, 2022

Dealing with burn injuries requires a basic understanding of the system of severity by which burn injuries get categorized.

These categories – first, second and third-degree burns – will determine how the burn itself gets treated based on the severity of the wound.

Severity of First-Degree Burns

Temple Health looks into burn injury severity. The scale rates burns from the least to most severe, with first-degree burns causing a relatively minor amount of damage and third-degree burns causing potentially catastrophic damage.

For first-degree burns, most sunburns will fall under this category, to give a general idea of what they feel like and how they look. Though these burns are often painful, they will not blister. It is a superficial burn that generally heals through time and the application of moisturizer and topical ointments to soothe pain and promote healing. However, a victim may still want to go to a doctor to get their opinion for treatment.

The Dangers of Second and Third-Degree Burns

Second-degree burns involve multiple layers of the skin and will blister and turn very red. These injuries serve as extremely painful and can prevent a victim from exercising full mobility. If the burn is bigger than two to three inches or is on the face, groin, major joints or other crucial parts of the body, it is not a minor burn and needs immediate treatment.

Third-degree burns are the most severe and involve all layers of skin. Rather than blistering or reddening, the skin often looks white or charred. Victims often do not feel pain due to nerve damage. It is crucial for these victims to get help right away in order to reduce the potential long-term effects and scarring.