First degree——-    Second Degree——     Third Degree

There are 3 degrees of burns:

  • First-degree –Involves only top layer of skin. Skin will be dry, red, may swell and will usually be painful.
  • Second-degree -Skin will be red and may swell, usually very painful, has blisters that may open and release a clear fluid.
  • Third-degree -May destroy underlying tissues such as fat, bones, nerves, and muscles. Skin may be brown or black and will look charred.


Thermal burns
You must stop the burning by removing the person from the source of the burn. Check for any life-threatening conditions by checking the Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. Cool the burn with large amounts of clean water until the pain is relieved (in case of dry chemical burns, remove off residue first).

Cover the burn loosely with a sterile, dry (preferably non-adhesive) dressing. Do not use oils, creams, etc.; they can trap heat and increase risk of infection. Also do not use antiseptics, consult doctor first. Treat for shock. Burns cripple the body’s ability to regulate heat. Ensure the person does not become over-heated or chilled.

Chemical burns

Don’t do this!
  • Apply ice or iced water except on small first degree burns.
  • Touch a burn with anything other than a sterile covering.
  • Remove adhered clothing.
  • Try to clean a severe burn.
  • Break blisters.
  • Use any kind of ointment on a severe burn.

If there is a dry chemical, brush it off the skin using cloth, or with a gloved hand. Be sure not to inhale it or get any on yourself or more on the patient. Once the bulk of the dry chemical is gone, flush with running water. Call EMS immediately. If the burn is caused by a wet chemical, flush with plenty of water for 15 minutes and while flushing, call EMS immediately.

Electrical Burns

Electrical burns look like third-degree burns, but are not surrounded by first- and second-degree burns. They always come in pairs: an entry wound (smallest) and exit wound (larger). Call EMS immediately if a person has been shocked as electrocution can cause cardiac and respiratory problems. Be prepared to give CPR or defibrillation. Care is the same for thermal burns.

Radiation burns

Radiation burns, though typically caused from a nuclear source, could also include ultraviolet radiation in the form of sunburn which should be treated as a thermal burn. Radiation burns cannot be treated by a lay rescuer. Individuals working in high-risk environments for possible radiation exposure are trained in the treatment of radiation burns. Call your local emergency

Critical Burns

The following burns require medical attention as soon as possible. They may be life-threatening, disabling, and disfiguring. Call the local EMS number if:

  • Burns to a child younger than five years old or burns to an elderly person.
  • The patient is having difficulty breathing.
  • The burns are on more than one body part.
  • There are burns to the head, neck, hands, feet, or genitals.
  • Burns to the mouth or nose may be signs of burns to the airway.
  • Any burns resulting from chemicals or electricity.
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