SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic Staff
Burns don't affect the skin uniformly, so a single injury can reach varying depths. Distinguishing a minor burn from a more serious burn involves determining the extent of tissue damage.
The following are three classifications of burns:
- First-degree burn. This minor burn affects only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). It may cause redness, swelling and pain. It usually heals with first-aid measures within several days to a week. Sunburn is a classic example.
- Second-degree burn. This type of burn affects both the epidermis and the second layer of skin (dermis). It may cause red, white or splotchy skin, pain, and swelling. And the wound often looks wet or moist. Blisters may develop, and pain can be severe. Deep second-degree burns can cause scarring.
- Third-degree burn. This burn reaches into the fat layer beneath the skin. Burned areas may be charred black or white. The skin may look waxy or leathery. Third-degree burns can destroy nerves, causing numbness. A person with this type of burn may also have difficulty breathing or experience smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning.
When to see a doctor
Seek emergency medical assistance for:
- Burns that cover the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, a major joint or a large area of the body
- Deep burns, which means burns affecting all layers of the skin and even other tissues
- Burns caused by chemicals or electricity
- Difficulty breathing or burns to the airway
Minor burns can be cared for at home, but call your doctor if you experience:
Aug. 01, 2015
- Large blisters
- Signs of infection, such as oozing from the wound, increased pain, redness and swelling
- A burn or blister that doesn't heal in several weeks
- New, unexplained symptoms
- Significant scarring
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Thermal injuries. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- AskMayoExpert. Burn rehabilitation (adult and pediatric). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
- Burns. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/burns/burns. Accessed June 2, 2015.
- Purdue GF, et al. Acute assessment and management of burn injuries. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2011;22:201.
- Marx JA, et al. Thermal burns. In: Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Kowalske KJ. Burn wound care. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2011;22:213.
- Goldman L, et al. Medical aspects of trauma and burn care. In: Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Morgan ED, et al. Treatment of minor thermal burns. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Murphy F, et al. Treatment for burn blisters: Debride or leave intact? Emergency Nurse. 2014;22:24.
- Mass casualties: Burns. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://emergency.cdc.gov/masscasualties/burns.asp. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Burns. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/Content.aspx?id=25990. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Avoiding household burns. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/Content.aspx?id=25990. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Leon-Villapalos J, et al. Principles of burn reconstruction: Overview of surgical procedures. www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Protect yourself against fire and treat burns. National Safety Council. http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/safety-at-home-fires-burns.aspx. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Torpy JM. Burn injuries. JAMA. 2009;302:1828.
- Peck MD. Prevention of fire and burn injuries. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Medline plus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/burns.html. Accessed June 9, 2015.
- Shelov SP, et al. Day to day. In: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. 5th ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2009:65.
- Gauglitz GG, et al. Overview of the management of the severely burned patient. www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 9, 2015.