First aid: Burns

What are they, and what are the symptoms?

As most people know, burns may be classified as first, second and third degree. Being able to distinguish the difference is helpful in deciding when to go see the pediatrician.

First Degree
This type of burn causes the skin to become red but causes very little swelling and no blistering. People most often get first-degree burns when a small amount of hot water is accidentally splashed onto the skin or when they stay out in the sun a little too long without adequate sunscreen. Although these burns are painful, they heal within three to five days without scarring.

Second Degree
These are also called partial thickness burns. Superficial second-degree burns cause the destruction of the upper layer of the skin, the epidermis, and a minor portion of the second layer, the dermis. These burns are particularly painful because they expose the microscopic nerves of the skin. These burns are more pink because of the exposure of tiny blood vessels just under the burned skin. These blood vessels often become "leaky," giving these burns a weepy appearance. In addition, second-degree burns can become quite swollen. Healing takes about two weeks and usually causes little if any scarring.

Third Degree
These burns destroy the epidermis and most if not all of the dermis. Because the nerves of the skin are destroyed with these layers, these burns may actually be less painful. They usually have a pale or charred appearance. These burns are quite susceptible to infection. Healing usually requires skin grafting and leaves scars.

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