Second Degree Burns

February 17, 2010

A second degree burn is caused by injury to the epidermis which is the first layer of the skin and the dermis which is the second layer of the skin.
Causes:

  • Severe sunburns.

  • Contact with hot liquids.

  • Exposure to flames.

  • Contact with chemicals.

  • Clinical features:

  • Blisters.

  • Deep redness.

  • Swelling.

  • Pain, they are the most painful because nerve endings are intact.

  • Peeling of the skin.

  • Shock because of loss of fluid (see clinical features of shock).

  • Burned area may appear wet and shiny or white.


  • Treatment:
    Second degree burns can be treated at home if they are minor. Moderate and critical burns require treatment in a hospital. You need to seek medical treatment immediately if the burn is greater than 2-3 inches in diameter, if it is on the face, hands, feet, or genitals; or if the burn is caused by an electrical source.

    The goal of treatment for second degree burns is to ease the pain and prevent infection.

    1. Remove any jewelry or clothes from the burned area.
    2. Hold the burn under cool running water for 10-15 minutes or apply cold water compresses like a wet towel.
    3. Don't break blisters because it will increase the risk of infection.
    4. You can apply an antibiotic cream or an aloe based cream then cover the burn with a dry sterile gauze pad.
    5. Use pain reducing medications like Tylenol or Motrin.
    6. If the burn is on the arms or legs, keep them raised to reduce swelling.

    Don't do the following things:

    1. Don't use ice or ice water. (may cause more injury).
    2. Don't remove clothing if it is stuck to the burn (it will remove burned tissue with it).
    3. Don't put grease, ointments, petroleum jelly or home remedies, these substances can hold the heat in and make the burn worse.
    4. Don't use bandages with adhesive material (it will stick to the wound).
    5. Don't give aspirin to a child under the age of 18 years.
    • If there is any change or worsening of the burned area you should see your doctor. These include: puss drainage from the burned area, increased redness, excessive swelling, blister filled with greenish or brownish fluid, fever, swollen lymph nodes, numbness or coolness of the skin beyond the burned area.
    • A second degree burn heals between 10 days to 3 weeks, deep second degree burns may take more than 3 weeks to heal.
    This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.