Treatment of Second-Degree Burns

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

In most cases, partial thickness second-degree burns are caused by scald injuries, flames, skin briefly contacting a hot object, sunburn, chemicals and electricity. Symptoms 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

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.

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

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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