Second degree burns are also called partial thickness burns. They are called such because aside from the epidermis, a part of the dermis is also burned. Thus, symptoms are similar to those of first degree burns, except they may be more painful and there is blistering involved in the affected skin area.
Second degree burns can either be classified as minor burns or major burns. If the burn is less than two to three inches wide, it is considered a minor burn, whereas anything wider than three inches are considered major burns. Moreover, if the second degree burn is present on the face, hand, feet, major joint, groin or buttocks, it can also be considered a second degree burn. It is possible to have different kinds of burns at one time. A second degree burn that is classified as a minor burn will have a different first aid treatment from a major burn. First aid treatment for both kinds of second degree burns are taught in First Aid Courses.
Causes of Second Degree Burns
Burns can be a result of fire/ flame, scalding from very hot liquids, direct skin contact with a hot object, electrical and chemical burns that are usually caused by:
- House fires
- Playing with matches
- Playing with fireworks
- Car accidents
- Accidents in the kitchen – children touching a hot stove or a hot iron
Signs and Symptoms of Second Degree Burns
Each individual may experience the symptoms of second degree burns in a different way, however the following are the most common signs and symptoms of second degree burns in an individual:
- Deep redness of the affected skin
- Affected area may appear shiny and wet (possibly due to popping of blisters)
- Affected skin area may be white to discolored in an asymmetrical way
- Painful to touch
First Aid Treatment and Management for Second Degree Burns
For second degree burns that are considered minor burns, the following first aid treatment is recommended:
- Run cool water on the burned area to help ease the pain. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. One may also opt to place a clean towel moistened with cool tap water.
- If there tight items, such as bracelets or rings, in the affected area, quickly but gently remove them before the swelling begins.
- Do not pop the small blisters. However, in cases that they break, carefully clean the area with water and mild soap. Put an antibiotic ointment and wrap with a non-stick gauze bandage. For large blisters, it is recommended to see a doctor as they seldom stay intact.
- To alleviate pain, an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or paracetamol may be taken.
For second degree burns that are considered major burns, the following first aid treatment is recommended:
- Immediately call for emergency medical assistance. It is advised to do certain actions while waiting for the emergency help to arrive.
- Ensure that the individual is protected from future harm.
- If necessary, commence CPR.
- Remove restrictive items such as jewelry and belts, especially items that may restrict airway.
- Keep the burned area elevated and covered with a cool and moist cloth.
- Do not submerge the burned area in cold water as it may lead to complications.
Second degree burns affect both the epidermis and part of the dermis and can be classified as either a minor burn or a major burn, which have different first aid approaches.