Treatment For Second-Degree & Third-Degree Burns

Second-degree burns involve the outer and underlying layers of the skin, causing redness, pain, swelling, and blisters. When the blisters are open, the risk of infection is much higher. Third-degree burns extend through every layer of the skin and may involve underlying tissues; they can appear white, brown, or charred. Due to their severity, second-degree burns with open blisters and all third-degree burns require professional medical treatment.

Immediate Action: What Not to Do

  • Do Not Use Ice or Icy Water: Using ice can further damage the tissue and worsen the burn.
  • Do Not Pop Blisters: Open blisters are already at risk of infection; further opening them increases that risk.
  • Do Not Apply Ointment or Cream: These can trap heat and make the burn worse or interact with professional treatment measures.

Immediate Action: What to Do

Call for Emergency Assistance

For severe burns, immediately call for professional medical help. Severe burns require specialized medical treatment that cannot be adequately provided at home.

Elevate the Area

If possible and if it doesn't cause further pain or injury, elevate the burned area above heart level to reduce swelling.

Cover Loosely

Use a sterile, non-adhesive bandage or clean cloth to loosely cover the burn area. The aim is to protect the burn from contamination.

Medical Treatment for Severe Burns

Fluid Resuscitation

Severe burns can cause significant fluid loss, leading to dehydration and shock. Intravenous fluid replacement is often necessary.

Pain Management

Professional pain management often involves the use of prescription medications, sometimes administered intravenously, to manage the often severe pain associated with significant burns.

Wound Care

A healthcare team will clean the wound and may use specialized dressings. In some cases, skin grafts may be necessary.

Antibiotics and Other Medications

Antibiotics are often administered to prevent or treat infection, especially when there are open blisters or wounds. Tetanus vaccination may also be updated if needed.

Surgical Intervention

Third-degree burns often require surgical intervention, which may include debridement (removal of dead tissue) or skin grafting.


The healing process for severe burns can be long and may require physical therapy to maintain function of the affected areas.

When to Seek Medical Help

  • Second-degree burns larger than 3 inches in diameter
  • Any third-degree burn
  • Burns on the face, hands, buttocks, or over major joints
  • Burns that result from chemicals or electricity
  • Signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or pus

Treatment for second-degree burns with open blisters and third-degree burns should always be managed by healthcare professionals. These are serious medical conditions that require specialized medical intervention for proper treatment and optimal recovery outcomes.

First Aid Certification

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