Burns: First, Second, and Third Degree


The treatment of burns depends on the degree of the burn, as well as the size and location of the burn. Burns are evaluated as first, second or third degree.

1st-Degree Burn - MINOR

A first-degree burn is the least serious type of burn, involving only the outer layer of skin. A first-degree burn is superficial and has similar characteristics to a typical sunburn, with red skin and minor pain. You can usually treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn, however, if it involves much of the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint, seek emergency medical attention.

1st-degree burns will present with:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain

2nd-Degree Burn – MINOR/MAJOR

A second-degree burn is a more serious burn. Second degree burns look similar to a first degree burn, but in this case the damage has caused blistering of the skin, with the pain usually being more intense. If a second-degree burn is smaller than approximately 3 inches in diameter, treat as a minor burn.

2nd-degree burns will present with:

  • Red, white or splotchy skin
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Blisters

3rd-Degree Burn - MAJOR

The most serious of burns, these involve all layers of the skin and the underlying fat. In a third degree burn the damage has resulted in skin death, with the burned areas becoming charred black or white and having no sensation left. Muscle and even bone may be affected.

The victim may experience:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Other toxic effects, if smoke inhalation also occurred

Treatment For Minor Burns

  • Hold the burned area under COOL running water for 10 to 15 minutes, or until pain eases
  • Quickly and gently remove rings or other tight items from the burned area before it swells
  • If blisters break, gently clean the area with mild soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover with a nonstick gauze bandage
  • Apply moisturizer, aloe vera lotion or gel, or low-dose hydrocortisone cream
  • If needed for pain, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen
  • Large blisters are best removed, as they will rarely remain intact on their own. Also seek medical help if the burn covers a large area of the body or if you notice signs of infection, such as oozing from the wound, redness, swelling or increased pain

Treatment For Major Burns

Call 911 or emergency medical immediately help for major burns. For Immediate First-Aid, take these actions:

  • DO NOT REMOVE CLOTHING stuck to the skin
  • Check the circulation; look for breathing, coughing or movement. Begin CPR if needed
  • Quickly remove rings, jewelry, belts and other such items, as burned areas swell quite rapidly
  • Elevate the burned area above heart level, if possible
  • Cover the area of the burn with a cool, moist, bandage or clean cloth

Medfast Urgent Care Centers offer fast, professional medical treatment for burns. Our average wait time to see patients is less than an hour, compared to Hospital Emergency Rooms, which can sometimes take longer than three to four hours and are much more expensive. We are professionally staffed with highly-skilled, licensed doctors and nurses, and fully equipped to handle testing and treatment for burns.