A burn is damage to the tissue due to heat, fire, chemicals, electricity, sunlight, radiation, or steam from liquids or gases.

Burns are classified as follows:

  • Superficial skin burns injure the first layer of skin. A non-blistering sunburn is an example.
  • Superficial partial-thickness burns injure the first and second layers of the skin. A blistering sunburn is an example.
  • Deep partial-thickness burns extend even deeper into the skin.
  • Full-thickness burns injure all layers of the skin and damage tissues under the skin, including muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels.


The skin is:

  • Painful
  • Dry
  • Red

The burns:

  • Are painful and red
  • Seep fluid
  • Usually form blisters

The burns:

  • Extend deeper into the skin
  • Are painful
  • Almost always form blisters

This type of burn usually requires surgical treatment for grafting, and the scarring is severe.


For lesser degrees of damage to the skin, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic cream to prevent infection. For severe damage, skin grafting will be performed to replace the damaged skin.

Take the following steps:

  • Run cool water over the burn.
  • Remove any accessories around the burn.
  • Apply aloe vera cream or an antibiotic cream such as bacitracin and cover with a clean bandage or dressing.
  • Take over the counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Protect newly healed burns from cold exposure due to the increased risk of frostbite.
  • As these burns can sunburn easily, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for the first year after a burn to protect the skin.

Superficial burns usually heal in 3–6 days.

Superficial partial-thickness burns usually heal in 1–3 weeks.

Call 911.

In the meantime, you should:

  • Elevate the burned area.
  • Cover the area with a cool, moist bandage or cloth.

Take the following steps:

  • Protect the person from further harm
  • Check if the person is breathing normally. If they are unconscious, perform CPR

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you have a major burn, seek medical attention immediately. If it’s a minor burn but covers a large area of your body, encircles a body part, or involves the face, hands, feet, or genitals, you should seek medical attention urgently.

Causes and Prevention

  • Perform all tasks that may cause burns slowly and carefully.
  • Place fire extinguishers in fire-prone areas.
  • Keep children out of the kitchen area while cooking.
  • Store chemicals safely, and use gloves while using them.
  • Use sunscreen while going out in the sun.
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