A Straightforward Guide to 3 Types of Burns and How to Treat Them

3 types of burns

It’s bonfire and grilling season, and that means good food, fun in the sun with family, and time to connect with the great outdoors. Unfortunately, playing with fire also means you’re at risk of getting burned.

Burns come in at fourth place in the top 5 most common injuries worldwide. Most of us will get at least one burn in our lifetime, be it from the sun, a hot grill, or an especially well-done s’more.

There are 3 types of burns according to medical classifications, and each type requires different care. But how do you know which type of burn you have, and what should you do to treat it?

Read on for our quick guide to the different types of burns and their care.

First-Degree: Mild Surface Burns

Your skin has three layers: the epidermis on top, the subcutis at the base, and the dermis sandwiched in between them. A first-degree burn, the mildest type, only affects the top layer. These will result in pain, redness, and dry skin.

The most common type of first-degree burn is a sunburn, but you can also get them from scalding water or briefly touching a hot object. Most will heal on their own, though you may want to apply aloe vera gel to soothe your skin.

Even first-degree burns can sometimes get infected or have trouble healing. If your burn worsens or doesn’t seem to be healing properly, head to an urgent care for medical attention.

Second-Degree: Moderate Blistering Burns

Second-degree burns go through the top layer of skin and affect the dermis. They result in the same symptoms as a first-degree burn, but they may be more painful and will often blister.

Don’t put ice or a cold pack on burned skin, as this can freeze the tissue and do even more damage. Run the injured area under lukewarm or slightly cool water for 15-20 minutes. You may want to take an anti-inflammatory medicine like Advil or Tylenol to ease the pain and swelling.

If you get a second-degree burn, don’t pop the blisters, no matter how tempting it seems. Popping them at home puts you at risk of scarring and infection, both of which can complicate the healing process. Instead, head to your local urgent care for burn treatment.

Third-Degree: The Worst Type of Burn

Third-degree burns, also called full-thickness burns, affect all three layers of skin. In some cases, they can even burn through nerves, muscle, and bone.

Third-degree burns require immediate emergency medical treatment. Even if the injured area is small, don’t wait around and try to treat it at home. Instead, make sure the source of the burn is extinguished, cover the area with a cool, moist, clean cloth, and call 911.

Never try to remove clothing from the burned area, as you could do more damage to the tissue. If possible, prop up the injured area above heart level to reduce swelling until an ambulance arrives.

Seek Appropriate Care for These 3 Types of Burns

Burns are common injuries that can do a lot of permanent damage. Thankfully, by learning how to recognize the 3 types of burns, you’ll be better equipped to seek the right medical attention in the moment.

If you have a third-degree burn, call 911 or head to the emergency room right away. For less severe injuries, though, Getwell Urgent Care of Southaven can help. You can contact us if you have questions about your visit, or feel free to walk in while we’re open—no appointment required.

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