Third Degree Burns FAQ

What is a Third-Degree Burn?


Third-degree burns, also referred to as full-thickness burns, severely damage all layers of the skin – oftentimes destroying them completely. As a result, third-degree burns are typically marked by leathery-white, blackened, or charred skin and can destroy nerve endings. Third-degree burns always require immediate medical attention and should never be self-treated.

What are the Symptoms of a Third-Degree Burn?

Common Symptoms of third-degree burns include:

  • Charred skin
  • Destroyed nerve endings
  • Leathery and raised skin texture
  • Waxy and white skin discoloration
  • Dark brown skin discoloration
  • Widespread thickening of skin across the wounded area

Third-degree burns heal slowly and the symptoms may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to subside. Third-degree burns always require immediate treatment by a medical professional.

What are the Different Causes and Types of Third-Degree Burns?

Third-Degree Electric Burns: An electrical burn is a skin reaction caused by an electric current passing through the body. In the case of third-degree electric burns, a large portion of the body is often affected. Both children and adults are prone to common exposure to third-degree electric burns, which include:

  • Using electrical appliances while wet
  • Touching exposed power outlets
  • Adjusting prongs of an electrical cord
  • Inserting fingers into electrical sockets

Third-Degree Thermal Burns/Scalds: Thermal burns, also known as scalds, are burns resulting from direct skin contact with hot substances or objects, including liquid, steam, fire, and more. Common causes of third-degree thermal burns/scalds include:

  • Touching a hot iron
  • Making skin contact boiling water
  • Handling a hot cooking pot or pan
  • Touching a flame
  • Creating friction between the skin and an opposing surface
  • Making extended contact with an extremely cold object

Third-Degree Chemical Burns: Chemical Burns, also known as caustic burns, are burns that cause skin irritation and inflammation when either the eyes or skin are exposed to an irritant, such as an acid or a base. In the case of more third-degree chemical burns, the internal organs can be affected by ingesting or swallowing a chemical. Products that often produce chemical burns if used incorrectly are:

  • Swimming pool chlorine
  • Bleach
  • Ammonia
  • Teeth whitening products
  • Denture cleaners
  • Car battery acid

How Can a Third-Degree Burn be Treated?

Third-degree burns always require immediate treatment from a medical professional. Quickly dial 911 If you or someone you know experiences a third-degree burn.

Specific treatment for a third-degree must be determined by a doctor and will likely be based on:

  • Age, health, and medical history
  • Cause of the burn
  • Location of the burn
  • Extent of the burn

Your doctor will also evaluate the severity of the burn, determining the specific treatment, which may include:

  • Removal of dead skin and tissue
  • Antibiotic ointment and creams
  • Pain medications
  • Skin grafting
  • Spending time in a warm, humid environment
  • Cosmetic and functional reconstruction surgery

How Can Third-Degree Burns be Prevented?

When the appropriate steps are taken, third-degree burns are easily avoidable. Abide by these tips to ensure that third-degree burns don’t happen to you.

Preventing Electric Burns:

  • Use or cover exposed electrical sockets
  • Avoid using electric-powered appliances while wet
  • Turn off circuit breakers before making repairs to wiring
  • Unplug unused appliances
  • Place electrical cords outside of the reach of children

Preventing Thermal Burns/Scalds:

  • When hot cooking pots are present, keep them on the back burner with the handles turned inward to avoid mishaps
  • Ensure children have sufficient supervision when around open flames, hot surfaces, and hot objects
  • Avoid using extension cords for kitchen appliances
  • Avoid bathing, showering, or coming in contact with water that is above 120 degrees Fahrenheit

Preventing Chemical Burns:

  • Store chemicals at home in locked cabinets, out of the reach of children
  • Use proper attire and eye protection when using chemicals
  • Always follow directions and safety precautions provided by the manufacturer, which are typically included on the label