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Health Library : Burns

 

Second-Degree Burns (Partial thickness Burns)

What is a second-degree burn?

Second-degree burns (also called partial thickness burns) involve the epidermis and part of the dermis layer of skin. The burn site appears red, blistered, and may be swollen and painful.

Anatomy of the skin
Click Image to Enlarge

What causes a second-degree burn?

In most cases, partial thickness second-degree burns are caused by the following:

  • Scald injuries
  • Flames
  • Skin that briefly comes in contact with a hot object
  • Sunburn
  • Chemicals
  • Electricity

What are the symptoms of a second-degree burn?

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of a partial thickness second-degree burn. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Blisters
  • Deep redness
  • Burned area may appear wet and shiny
  • Skin that is painful to the touch
  • Burn may be white or discolored in an irregular pattern

The symptoms of a second-degree burn may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

Treatment for partial thickness second-degree burns

Superficial second-degree burns usually heal in about three weeks, as long as the wound is kept clean and protected. Deep second-degree burns may take longer than three weeks to heal. Specific treatment for a second-degree burn will be determined by your child's doctor, based on the following:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the burn
  • Location of the burn
  • Cause of the burn
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Your opinion or preference

A second-degree burn that does not cover more than 10 percent of the skin's surface can usually be treated in an outpatient setting. Treatment depends on the severity of the burn and may include the following:

  • Antibiotic ointments
  • Dressing changes one or two times a day depending on the severity of the burn
  • Daily cleaning of the wound to remove dead skin or ointment
  • Possibly systemic antibiotics if the skin becomes infected

Wound cleaning and dressing changes may be painful. In these cases, an analgesic (pain reliever) may need to be given. In addition, any blisters that have formed should not be burst.

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