Burns can be caused by a variety of things, including scalding from hot liquids, chemicals, electrical wires, fires and too much sun exposure. There are a few different types of burns and they are categorized by the amount of damage they have done to the skin and underlying fat, ligaments, tendons and bones. These different types are called first, second and third-degree burns, with first degree being minor and third degree being major burns.
First degree burns damage only the outer layer of the skin and usually heal within one to two weeks. Signs of first degree burns are minor swelling, redness and peeling skin and the burn heals.
Second degree burns damage the outer layer of the skin and the layer beneath it. This type of burn blisters and can be more painful and sore than a first-degree burn. Most second-degree burns heal within two to three weeks without scarring, but can cause changes to the color of the skin in the affected area.
Third degree burns damage the deepest layers of the skin and sometimes affect the fat and tendons beneath the skin. These burns heal with extreme scarring and there is often no timeline for when they will heal. In extreme cases surgery is needed to help heal the wounds.
For minor burns hold the affected area under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes, remove rings or other tightly fitting jewelry or clothing, do not pop small blisters that develop because this can cause scarring, apply moisturizer or gel to the affected area, and take over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil or Tylenol if needed for the pain. For major burns call 911 or medical help immediately and wait for further instruction. While waiting for help protect the affected person from further harm, cover the area of the burn with a cool cloth or bandage, do not run the burns under water as this can cause shock and hypothermia for the victim and do not remove any clothing that is stuck to the skin from burning. As a rule of thumb treat any second degree burn that is smaller than 3 inches in diameter as a minor burn and anything larger as a major burn.