Partial-thickness burns are more serious than superficial (first-degree) burns because a deeper layer of skin is burned. They can become infected more easily. Also, if the burn affects more than 10% of your body, you may go into shock because you can lose a lot of fluid from the burned area.
Partial-thickness burns affect a deeper layer of skin, but they don’t hurt muscle or bone. They are also sometimes called second-degree burns.
All partial-thickness burns more than 2 to 3 inches wide should be treated by your healthcare provider. Smaller burns can usually be treated at home.
Partial-thickness burns are usually caused by:
The skin is bright red and has 1 or more blisters. The blisters usually turn white. The blisters may break open. They may leak fluid, making the skin look wet. The area may also look blotchy, with some areas redder than others. The burn is usually very painful and there may be some swelling. With larger burns, you may have nausea or headache.
The goals of treatment for partial-thickness burns are easing the pain and preventing infection.
For burns with closed blisters:
For burns with open blisters:
For chemical burns, follow these first-aid steps while making sure to avoid more contact with the chemical:
For electrical burns:
For all partial-thickness burns:
Call your healthcare provider right away for burns that are more than 2 to 3 inches wide, especially if they are on the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a big joint, like your knee or shoulder. Medical care may include:
Call your healthcare provider if your burn is not getting better after 2 to 3 days or you have any of the following:
Usually, partial-thickness burns heal in 10 days to 2 weeks. Large burns may take 3 to 4 weeks to heal. There may be little or no scarring if the burn was not too extensive and if infection is prevented. Do remember that blistering sunburns can cause skin cancer (melanoma) later in life.
Some examples of things you can do to help prevent burns are: