- What Is
- Signs and Symptoms
- When to See a Doctor
What is a first-degree burn?
A burn is one of the most common injuries that happens in homes, especially among children. Depending upon their depth, burns have been classified into three types: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns.
A first-degree burn is the most minor form of burn and it usually heals within a week. It happens when the source of heat has come into contact with your skin for just a fraction of a second. It is generally caused when
- You accidentally touch a hot surface such as a hot pan.
- Your skin is exposed to the sun for a long time resulting in sunburn.
- You are shortly exposed to a more intense source of heat such as an explosion.
- You get an electric shock and the area that was in contact with the electric surface gets burned (but the internal damage is greater).
Since a first-degree burn affects only the superficial or the outermost layer of your skin (epidermis), this type of burn is also referred to as a superficial partial-thickness burn. These types of burns are more common in children who out of curiosity and unknowingly touch hot surfaces.
What are the signs and symptoms of a first-degree burn?
Signs and symptoms of a first-degree burn and their duration vary from person to person. These include
- First-degree burns develop a pink or red color.
- They are painful and remain so for 48 to 78 hours.
- Depending on the amount of time since the injury occurred, there may be minor edema of the burned area.
- The skin is soft and blisters are usually absent.
- The skin usually remains unbroken and hence, infection is rare.
- There may be peeling of burned skin (superficial exfoliation) but the skin is usually normal within three to five days.
- The burned area heals without any residual scarring.
How is a first-degree burn treated?
A first-degree burn can usually be self-treated at home. Treatment may include
- Running the minorly burned skin under cool, running tap water.
- Applying petroleum jelly twice to three times a day if it’s a very minor burn.
- Holding a wet cloth soaked with cold water (cold compress) to the skin (to ease the pain).
- Applying antiseptics creams that include Polysporin or Povidone-Iodine (Betadine) to help prevent infection. Avoid neomycin.
- Using over-the-counter oral medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling.
- Applying creams to decrease pain; for example, local anesthetic such as lidocaine (Xylocaine) cream.
When should you see a doctor for a first-degree burn?
Take your child to the doctor if they are less than two years old and have suffered a first-degree burn.
There are certain areas of your body that require a visit to the doctor even in case of a first- degree burn. These are
What are the possible complications of a first-degree burn?
The skin color of the burned area may become lighter or darker. The complications of a first-degree burn are usually rare except for a low risk of infection .
How can you prevent first-degree burns?
It is possible to prevent most first-degree burns by following certain precautions. These include
- Turning down the temperature on your water heater to 125 degrees Fahreinheit.
- Using sunscreen before you venture out to avoid sunburn and then reapplying it every three hours.
- Placing pots and pans on the back burners while cooking.
- Installing grounded electrical sockets.
- Unplugging appliances that are not in use.
- Install smoke alarms/detectors in your home.
- Changing the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year.
- Keeping a dry chemical fire extinguisher at home. Learn how to use it and teach other family members in your home how to use it as well.
- Getting the wiring in your home checked by an electrician at least once every 10 years.
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