Second-degree burns are a type of burns that are severe than the first-degree burns (minor burns that affect the superficial layer of the skin) but milder than the third-degree burns (that cause major loss of the skin). They affect the epidermis as well as the layer (dermis) that is deeper to the epidermis.
Also known as deep partial-thickness burn, second-degree burns take longer to heal and are serious. Second-degree burns can be so bad that they can cause complications such as:
- Infection of the burned area
- Photo-sensitivity of the burnt skin (during healing)
- Loss of normal skin color or darkening of the skin in the burnt area
- Scarring (if not treated properly)
- Restricted joint movements or joint contractures (due to scarring)
Complications such as joint contracture may require skin grafting to prevent joint disability.
Second-degree burns can become life-threatening if:
What can cause a second-degree burn?
A second-degree burn is commonly caused by:
- Severe sunburn (usually in fair-skinned persons)
- Spilling of boiling water
- Exposure to a flash of flame (such as from ovens and stoves)
- Grabbing a falling curling iron by the heated end
- Chemicals such as bleaching agents and acids
What are the signs and symptoms of a second-degree burn?
A second-degree burn has two sub-types: superficial second-degree burns and deep second-degree burns. It exhibits an irregular pattern and usually looks like a wet-looking wound.
A Superficial second-degree burn is confined to the upper part of the dermis layer. Its signs and symptoms include:
- It ranges in color from pink to bright red
- Blisters that are variable in size which upon bursting release a watery substance
- Extremely painful (since nerve endings are still intact)
- A highly sensitive skin (even a breeze of air causes pain)
- Temporary thickening of the skin with no loss in its elasticity
Signs and symptoms of deep second-degree burns include:
- Smaller blisters
- Slightly moist skin
- Decreased sensation to pinprick but deep pressure sensations are retained
- Less elastic skin
How is a second-degree burn treated?
A second-degree burn is an emergency condition and needs medical attention. While you wait for the doctor, the following steps can be initiated:
- Allow the burn to cool by pouring cool water on it. But avoid using ice.
- Stay hydrated (drink plenty of water or electrolyte drinks).
- Cover the burn with a loose dressing.
- Avoid applying butter or oil immediately on the burnt skin.
Medical treatment depends on how severe the burn is and where it is located.
- A doctor applies an antibiotic cream after cleaning the burn wound.
- If there are chances of the burn wound getting infected, the doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics or inject the same through your veins (intravenously).
- The doctor will administer intravenous fluids for rapid rehydration.
- Skin grafting may be needed in deeper second-degree burns. This means the burnt skin will be replenished with healthy skin (removed from another region of your body).
How long does it take for a second-degree burn to heal?
A second-degree burn can take anywhere between five days to three weeks to heal itself. If there are complications, recovery might take longer.
To hasten the recovery, you can try the following strategies:
- Keep the burn clean and protected with a dressing.
- Avoid rubbing or scratching the skin; trim your nails regularly
- Moisturize the burnt skin after the wound heals to prevent scarring (petroleum jelly can be used twice-thrice a day).
- Increase your protein intake.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear a hat and long-sleeved tops and apply a sunscreen lotion while in the sun.
- Wear loose clothes.
Ask your doctor if you can use antibiotic creams or painkillers for faster healing of the wound and pain relief.
Latest Healthy Living News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Burns. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000030.htm
Top How Bad Are Second-Degree Burns Related Articles
Burn: First-Degree BurnA first-degree burn is the most minor form of burn and it usually heals within a week. It happens when the source of heat has come into contact with your skin for just a fraction of a second. A first-degree burn can usually be self-treated at home.
Burns (First Aid)
Burn types are based on their severity: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns. First-degree burns are similar to a painful sunburn. The damage is more severe with second-degree burns, leading to blistering and more intense pain. The skin turns white and loses sensation with third-degree burns. Burn treatment depends upon the burn location, total burn area, and intensity of the burn.
First Aid Quiz: Care for Wounds, Scrapes, Cuts, and BurnsWound care for cuts and scrapes includes treatment to clean and bandage the injury. Should you use alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, ointment, or butter on a wound? Should you pull a bandage off fast or air out a wound? Take this quiz to test your medical knowledge.
How Do I Heal a Burn Quickly?Burns may occur by direct or indirect contact with heat, electric current, radiation or chemical agents. The treatment depends upon the extent or level of the burn. If you are not certain about the type of burn, you must treat it as a major burn. For all serious burns, urgent medical attention is needed.
30 Sunburn Natural and Home Remedies for Severe Sunburns
There are many natural and home remedies that are thought to relieve the symptoms ofa sunburn. Check out our top 30 tips to cool that sunburn, for example drink lots of water, juice, or sports drinks; apply a cool compress containing Burow's solution; coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer after sunburn pain has stopped; apply topical over-the-counter (OTC) 1% hydrocortisone cream; and take OTC pain relievers like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
Summer Skin QuizWhen it comes to summer, there plenty of hazards under the sun! Take the Summer Skin Hazards Quiz and clue in on the dangers to your summer skin!
Summer Skin DangersSummer can be hazardous to your skin if you come in contact with jellyfish, stingrays, henna tattoos, poison ivy, oak, sumac, mosquitoes, ticks, bees, chiggers, black widow spiders, brown recluse spiders, snakes, fireworks, excess sun exposure, and heat. Discover what to do if you encounter these dangers and how to keep yourself safe while hiking, swimming, and participating in outdoor activities.
Sun-Damaged SkinSee how sun damaged skin can cause wrinkles, moles, melanoma (skin cancer) and more. Explore images of squamous cell carcinoma and the early signs of skin cancer.
First-Degree Sunburns PictureA sunburn is skin damage from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. See a picture of Sunburn (First-Degree Burns) and learn more about the health topic.
Why Is an Escharotomy Performed?An escharotomy is an emergency medical procedure that involves the removal of the full-thickness burn (eschar) down to the subcutaneous fat to release it and prevent further complications. It restores blood flow and allows adequate ventilation.