What are the Different Degrees of Burns?
Burns are classified on both their surface penetration and severity. They can be labeled as first, second, third, or fourth-degree. It is important to remember that many of the causes of burns remain the same for each degree. What separates them is the extent of the damage caused by the burn.
A first-degree burn, also known as a mild or superficial burn, affects the first layer of skin and is the least harmful of the burn types. Although first-degree burns are seldom severe, they can become quite painful, at which point you should seek professional medical assistance.
Causes of First-Degree Burns
- Exposure to sunlight without sunscreen
- Making skin contact with hot water/liquids
- Touching a hot object such as a curling iron
Second-degree burns, also referred to as partial-thickness burns, are marked by pain, blistering and superficial destruction of the outer and lower layers of skin (dermis). As a result, second-degree burns develop blisters and become extremely red and sore, differentiating the severity level from first-degree burns.
Causes of Second-Degree Burns
- Severe sunburns
- Kitchen accidents involving a stove or oven
- Exposure to fire
- Making skin contact with boiling water /liquids
Third-degree burns, also referred to as full-thickness burns, severely damage all layers of the skin – often times destroying them completely. As a result, third-degree burns are typically marked by leathery-white, blackened, or charred skin and can be relatively painless due to the destruction of nerve endings. Third-degree burns always require immediate medical attention and should never be self-treated.
Causes of Third-Degree Burns
- Making skin contact with scalding water/liquid
- Touching a hot object for an extended amount of time
- Interaction of the skin with a flame for an extended amount of time
- Electrical sources
- Chemical sources
Fourth-degree burns are the deepest and most severe burn. They’re potentially life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. These burns destroy all layers of your skin, as well as your bones, muscles, and tendons.
Causes of Fourth-Degree Burns
Although fourth-degree burns are primarily the result of large fires and dangerous chemicals, other sources include:
- Oven or stove
- Campfires and fireplaces
University of Rochester Medical Center | WebMD | American Society for Surgery of the Hand | Price Benowitz LLP | Healthline Media