What are Second Degree Burns?
Second degree burns affect the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and certain parts of the second layer of skin (dermis).(1) They are much more severe than the first degree burns. Second-degree burns often take several weeks to heal and can be very painful in some cases. If larger area of the skin is affected, then it can sometimes become much more complicated leading to infection and become life threatening. If the 2nd degree burns are on joints, hands, face, genitals, buttocks, then also it can become complicated.
What are the Causes of Second Degree Burns?
Second degree burns can be caused from heat and chemicals.(1) The heat may be from sun and stoves; while chemicals like bleach and various other cleaning products lead to second-degree burns.(1)
Some common causes of second-degree burns include accidents with stoves and ovens, severe sunburn, when a person sits in sun for a prolonged period, fire exposure, coming in contact with boiling water, accidental injuries for example getting touched with a hot iron and through purposeful intentions like attacking an individual with acid.(1)
What are the Symptoms of Second-Degree Burns?
The symptoms of second-degree burns consist of formation of blisters, moist looking burn like forming a wound, irregular pattern burn, intense skin sensitivity or pain, a skin which looks white, very dark brown or deep red.(2) Post-second degree burn, if an individual has fever, then it can mean that he/she has developed the infection.
How is the Diagnosis of Second-Degree Burns Made?
The doctor can assess the severity of the burn by visual interpretation. The interaction by doctors or health care professionals on what caused the burn with the person who has sustained the burns can be helpful in arriving at correct diagnosis about the degree of burns. Estimation of the percentage of the body the burn covers by doctors helps in assessment of risk of infection and serious complications.
Ways to Protect a Second-Degree Burn
Second-degree burns can be protected by covering the affected area loosely with a non-stick sterile bandage and secure it in place with gauze. Consult your doctor immediately if you see signs of increased pain, infection, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. Tetanus or booster shot may be required depending on the date of last injection.
Ways To Cool A Second-Degree Burn
Immerse the affected part in cool water for 10 or 15 minutes. Applying ice directly is forbidden because it can lower body temperature and lead to more pain and damage. In certain cases, blisters may develop; so avoid breaking blisters or applying any kind of ointments that can cause infection.
Explain the Treatment of Second-Degree Burns?
If from the above description of the second-degree burns given, if an individual thinks he/she has suffered second-degree burns, then patient should immediately seek a consultation with a doctor since serious complications can be avoided by receiving the right first aid.
Before seeing the doctor, perform the following steps for Second-Degree Burns:(3)
- Immediate removal of any clothing or jewellery on the affected part. The burn may be hot and continue to burn for a prolonged period.
- After removal of clothing, cover the burn with a gauze. Avoid wrapping the burnt area tightly, which may be lead to cut off of circulation of blood.
- Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water or electrolyte fluids.
- Avoid applying of any kind of ointment immediately after sustaining the burn and do not break open the blisters.
- The doctor will decide upon the course of medical treatment based on the location and severity of the burn. He may clean the burn and apply suitable cream to prevent infection of the wound. In case of severe burn, a stay in the hospital may be warranted by the doctor.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed by the doctor, if a person has an infection or may be prone to infection. Intravenous antibiotics may be prescribed by doctor in case of severe infections.
In certain very serious cases of second-degree burn, skin grafting is advocated. In Skin Grafting, the surgeon transplants the skin from one area of the body to another area and replaces the damaged skin.
Recovery from Second-Degree Burns
Depending upon the area burnt, whether infection has occurred or not, second-degree burns can take a recovery time from few days to a few weeks.(2) The recovery time of second-degree burns may be still longer if they develop certain other complications.
Depending upon the overall health of person and severity of the burn, the home management remedies may vary.
The recovery process from second-degree burns can be speeded up by taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, keeping the burnt area clean, regularly moisturising the burn once the wound stops draining, applying an antibiotic ointment to prevent infections, avoiding scratching, rubbing or pricking the burn, since this may lead to reopening of the wound and increase the chances of infection.
NOTE: A visit to doctor must be made immediately if the patient develops fever and believes that the symptoms have suddenly worsened.