First, Second, vs Third-degree Burns: Difference and Comparison

Skin burns are divided into four major categories based on their severity, including first, second, third, and fourth-degree burns.

However, only the first three stages are comparable, as the fourth degree of burn is easily differentiable from the others in appearance and symptoms.

Key Takeaways

  1. First-degree burns only affect the skin’s outer layer and cause mild pain and redness.
  2. Second-degree burns involve the first and second layers of skin, causing blisters and severe pain.
  3. Third-degree burns damage all skin layers and underlying tissue, requiring medical attention.

First-degree Burns vs Second-degree Burns vs Third-degree Burns

First-degree burns are the mildest type of burn, affecting only the outer layer of the skin, and can be treated with cold water, pain relievers, and moisturizing cream. Second-degree burns can cause blistering, pain, and swelling, requiring medical attention, topical antibiotics, and dressings.

First degree Burns vs Second degree Burns vs Third degree Burns

First-degree burns cause minimal damage to the skin. They are also known as superficial burns, as they affect the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. First-degree burns heal within seven to ten days, leaving no post-burn scars.

Second-degree burns cause noticeable damage to the skin. They are also known as partial-thickness burns, as they partially affect the inner layer of the skin, known as the dermis. Second-degree burns heal within two to three weeks.

Third-degree burns cause severe damage to the skin. They are also known as full-thickness burns, as they completely damage both the outer and the inner layer of the skin. Third-degree burns take a long time to heal and leave severe scars.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonFirst-degree BurnsSecond-degree BurnsThird-degree Burns
Other NamesSuperficial burns.Partial-thickness burns.Full-thickness burns.
Affected AreaIt affects only the epidermis.It affects the epidermis and dermis partially.It destroys the epidermis and dermis completely.
SignsRedness and minor inflammation.Redness, soreness, blistering, etc.Pain, dark brown color, underdeveloped blisters, etc.
InfectionsThese do not cause any infections.These may cause infections.These will cause infections if left untreated.
TreatmentCool tap water, non-stick bandages, etc.Coop tap water, Antibiotic creams, etc.Surgery, physical therapy, rehabilitation, etc.

What is First-degree Burn?

First-degree burns are also known as superficial burns. These burns are rarely severe and are mostly self-treated or by a few home remedies.

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Some common symptoms of first-degree burns include redness, minor inflammation, minor swelling, and itching in the affected area, etc.

First-degree burns are mostly caused by sunburns. Staying out in direct sunlight for a few hours will most likely cause skin burns in people with sensitive skin.

Some other causes of these burns include spilling of hot liquid on the skin, electric shocks, etc. The pain and symptoms are mostly mild.

However, first-degree burns that are caused by electricity may affect the inner part of the skin, the symptoms of which are not immediately visible. In such cases, it is recommended to seek a medical diagnosis.

For most adults, first-degree burns over a small area mostly never develop an infection. Nevertheless, the risk of infection is higher in infants and young children. It is recommended to consult a pediatrician as the skin of children is more sensitive than adults.

For home care treatments, pouring cold tap water over the affection area immediately after the burn is advisable. As it is not too severe, the skin recovers completely in a week or two with no post-burn scarring.

first degree burns scaled

What is Second-degree Burn?

Second-degree burns are also known as partial-thickness burns. These burns can be severe and may or may not be self-treated or by home remedies.

Some common symptoms of first-degree burns include redness, skin inflammation, skin blistering, moderate pain in the affected area, etc.

Second-degree burns are more severe than first-degree burns as they not only affect the outer layer of the skin but also partially affect the inner layer of the skin, known as the dermis.

However, second-degree burns are not as severe as third-degree burns. Second-degree burns are caused by severe sunburn, fire exposure, spilling of hot boiling water, etc.

As the inner layer of the skin is affected, second-degree burns can cause infection. Early signs of an infection include headache, fever, severe pain, or a burning sensation in the affected area.

Therefore, it is advisable to seek medical help following a burn immediately. Surgeries can also be done for serious second-degree burns to prevent infection throughout the body.

In some cases, home remedies such as antibiotic creams and pouring cold tap water can also provide relief. Most second-degree burns take a few weeks to recover completely, and they cause post-burn scarring.

second degree burns

What is Third-degree Burn?

Third-degree burns are also known as full-thickness burns. These burns are highly severe and cannot be self-treated or by home remedies. Some common symptoms of third-degree burns include skin discolouration, dry, leathery skin, swelling, and severe pain, etc.

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Third-degree burns are much more severe than first and second-degree burns as they completely damage the outer and the inner layer of the skin. Chemicals, explosions, direct contact with fire flames, etc., cause third-degree burns.

If left untreated, third-degree burns will cause more internal damage to the skin and serious infections as well. As the injury is deep into the skin, it can also damage the hypodermis, which is the internal layer of the skin.

The nerve endings may also be affected in an even more critical case. As a result, there is a lack of pain or feeling in the affected area.

Such severe burns can also result in various complications, including body shock. Several organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain, are directly affected by it, and the consequences can be life-threatening.

Home remedies must be strictly avoided. Third-degree burns require immediate diagnosis, hospitalization, and professional treatment, including surgeries. It takes a long time for these burns to heal, and they cause a lifetime of scarring in the affected area.

third degree burns scaled

Main Differences Between First, Second, and Third Degree Burns

  1. First-degree burns are very mild, and second-degree burns are moderately mild. On the other hand, third-degree burns are severe.
  2. First-degree burns are rarely painful whereas all the other degrees of burns are painful.
  3. First and second-degree burns need only a few days to heal, whereas third-degree burns require a long period to heal.
  4. First-degree burns don’t require a medical diagnosis or treatment, whereas all other burns need a professional diagnosis.
  5. First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of the skin, whereas all the other degrees of burns affect the inner layers of the skin as well.

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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11 thoughts on “First, Second, vs Third-degree Burns: Difference and Comparison”

  1. Well written and informative article. The comparison table was especially useful in understanding the differences between the different degrees of burns.

  2. This is a very informative and well-structured article. I now understand the differences between the various degrees of skin burns.

  3. The article offers a comprehensive explanation of first, second, and third-degree burns, along with the appropriate treatment for each. Very informative and useful.

  4. This article does a great job of explaining the different degrees of skin burns and the corresponding symptoms. I appreciate the information!

  5. Informative and well-written article that clearly outlines the differences between first, second, and third-degree burns. Good job!

  6. The article does an excellent job explaining the severity of first, second, and third-degree burns, and what the corresponding treatments are.


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