Degrees of severity
First degree burns are mild and affect only the outermost layer of the skin. The skin reddens but will blanch (turn white) when touched. The area may feel warm to the touch, and might be tender. A first degree burn will usually heal by itself without scarring within a week.
Second degree burns are deeper (involving part of the dermis), more painful, and more severe than first degree burns. Blisters may be present, and this grade of burn usually takes a couple of weeks to heal. Some scarring is possible. A partial thickness burn is a second degree burn which has injured only part of the dermis.
Third degree burns are the deepest and most serious grade of burn. The skin develops a leathery texture and becomes whitish and dry, but does not feel tender to the touch. Charring may also be present. This type of burn involves the epidermis, the entire dermis, and possible deep tissue such as bone and muscle. Serious burns may be accompanied by fever, chills, headache, and dizziness
Only burns extending into the dermis are considered significant.
Care for minor burns
For first or closed second degree burns, soak the affected area in very cold water for about 10 minutes, then wash the burn with warm, soapy water. Pat the area dry with a clean, soft towel, being careful not to tear any bilisters. Cover the blistered area with a clean, dry bandage. It will be neccessary to clean the burn and change the bandages several times a day.
When to call the Doctor
- You develop a high temperature
- You have increasing pain and/or redness in the burned area
- There is foul-smelling drainage from the burn wound
When to call an ambulance
- Seek medical care immediately if you develop numbness, tingling, or swelling below a burn on your arm or leg
- Third degree burns or extensive second degree burns also require immediate medical attention
(my thanks to Leslie for this helpful information!)