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Difference Between First, Second, and Third-Degree Burns

First, Second, vs Third-Degree Burns

Burns are often regarded as serious injuries which are caused by a multitude of factors. However, experts have made different categories of burns to help qualify the extent or severity of the injury. There are three primary categories, namely: first, second, and third-degree burns. This is often the first thing that needs to be determined in order for the healthcare provider to proceed with the treatment or management since the type or amount of intervention needed differs from one degree to another.

First-degree burns are regarded as such because they are the most minor of all burn types. Most of the treatments for this type of burn can readily be administered at home. These burns are characterized by superficial burns in which healing is expected to be fast and easy (4-6 days). Skin reddening, minor swelling accompanied by pain and sensitivity to touch are some of the familiar signs of first-degree burns. A common example for this type of burn is sunburn. General treatment for this is the application of an ice pack on the burned skin’s surface. The use of cold water soaks and other commercial anti-burn ointments can increase the rate of healing.

Second-degree burns are more serious as opposed to the former. Aside from affecting the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis), this type already penetrates deeper into the next layer (dermis). Prolonged exposure to extreme heat or an exposure to a chemical, which is burning in nature, can cause these types of burns. With second-degree burns, blistering and severe pain are often present. Because the inner part of the skin is most likely eroded, the burn victim is already prone to infections. Most of these burns need professional medical attention rather than traditional home care. Painkillers and antibiotics are usually prescribed. Healing, as opposed to in first-degree burns, takes about one month.

The most serious of all types of burns is the third-degree burn. Aside from burning the first two skin layers, this type of burn already penetrates the other deeper skin layers like the subcutaneous layer and its surrounding tissues. Because of the extent of damage, the nerves are usually affected as well leading to a decreased sensation at the affected area and probable numbness. Blistering and the formation of pus are likely to be expected. For third-degree burns advanced medical attention is mandatory because they take the longest time to heal.

In some other resources, they also include a fourth-degree burn which is said to be far worse than the third level. This is characterized by widespread and deep burns to many parts of the body.


1.First-degree burns are the mildest, most superficial type of burn that heal the fastest.
2.Second-degree burns affect the epidermis and the dermis layers of the skin which are characterized by blistering. 3.They usually need at least one month to completely heal.
4.Third-degree burns are the most serious, deepest type of burn that heal in the longest time.

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