How Do I Treat Second-Degree Burns?

The first three degrees of burns.
Soaking a burn in cold water can help.
Second degree burns that are at risk of becoming infected should be looked at by a doctor.
Small second-degree burns can usually be treated at home.
Burn skin should be wrapped in a bandage, although burns to the hands, feet, or face require immediate medical attention.
Article Details
  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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A second-degree burn on a large patch of skin, on the face, hands, feet, bottom, groin, or over a major joint should receive immediate emergency medical care. In all other cases, you can treat second-degree burns by carefully removing any material covering the wound and soaking the burned area in cold water. Unless directed by a doctor, do not place any type of lotion on the burn. During healing, the burned skin should be covered with a sterile bandage, which needs to be changed daily. Following treatment, you should watch for signs of shock and infection.

Burn injuries are graded based on increasing severity as first, second, or third-degree. Second-degree burns involve damage to the top layer of the skin, called the epidermis, and the center layer of the skin called the dermis. These types of burns are characterized by a red or pink hue, often accompanied by swelling, prone to blisters filled with clear fluid, and are fairly painful. Most second-degree burns will heal within two to three weeks.

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Emergency medical care is needed for a second-degree burn larger than 3 inches (about 7.5 cm) or occurs on the face, hands, feet, bottom, groin, or near any major joint. Otherwise, you can begin to treat second-degree burns at home by gently removing any clothing or jewelry which is on or near the burn. Place the burned area in cold water and soak it for 15 minutes, but do not place any ice in the water bath or directly on the burned skin because the afflicted area can easily develop frostbite or further damage. Unless directed by a doctor, ointments, creams, butter, or oil should not be used to treat second-degree burns because these products can trap heat inside the skin, causing additional damage or leading to infection of the wound. If the patient experiences signs of shock, such as dilated pupils, decrease in blood pressure, or rapid breathing, seek medical help immediately.

For long-term care, you should treat second-degree burns by covering them with a sterile bandage and you should change the bandage daily. To avoid infection, do not treat second-degree burns by breaking blisters. You should also watch for any signs of an infection of the blister or burned area, such as redness, swelling, an increase in pain, or oozing fluids. If an infection develops, see a doctor. Painful second-degree burns can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers.

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SarahGen
Post 4

@feruze-- Sometimes burns are not bandaged and sometimes they are. It depends on the severity of the burn and the type of bandage.

In hospitals, they use special burn bandages for treating 2nd and 3rd degree burns. One type is a hydrogel bandage that keeps moisture inside and helps the burn heal faster. Another kind has ionized silver to prevent infections. When the risk of infection is high and when the burn is serious, it's better to bandage it, with one of these bandages if possible.

So if your burn has blistered and has open flesh, you have to bandage it to keep it clean. Just make sure to use a dressing material that won't stick to the burn. Otherwise you will cause damage while changing the dressing.

bear78
Post 3

I always thought that burns shouldn't be covered. Is it really okay to bandage a second degree burn?

ysmina
Post 2

I had a second degree burn when I was working at a restaurant. I didn't realize how severe it was at first and the restaurant manager did not offer to take me to a hospital, so I ignored it for a few hours. The burn turned bright red and started to hurt very badly after that. I still didn't go to the hospital but I took care of it at home, I don't know what I was thinking.

I basically bandaged the burn for months until it healed, applying antibiotic cream in between to prevent an infection. It took almost two months for the burn to heal and now I have a huge scar. I regret not going to the hospital at that time (and not suing the restaurant manager). I always wonder if I could have avoided this scar if I received a proper second degree burn treatment.

fwmrachael
Post 1

Many people do not know how burn injuries are classified in their state.

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