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Classification of Burns: Understanding How Badly You Might Be Burned

In the United States, 1.1 million people are burned and require medical attention every year. For many people, burns happen as part of cooking, working on vehicles, or staying out in the sun for too long.

Whether or not you will need treatment depends on what degree the wound is labeled as on the burn classification tiers. The more severe a burn is, the higher the classification and the more likely that you will need to seek immediate treatment. 

Read on to learn about the classification of burns and what to do if you sustain a burn injury.

Classification of Burns

There are four classifications of burns, but the first three are by far the most common. Any burn can be serious due to the pain and also the risk of infection. If you are burned—no matter how severely—and suspect that you might have an infection, seek medical attention. 

1st-Degree Burns

These are the least dangerous burns. The skin is not broken but becomes red, dry, and hurts to touch. First aid includes applying cool water to the burn site for up to 20 minutes and gently putting on burn cream. Most injuries in this classification of burns don’t require additional medical treatment. 

Most sunburns are first degree burns, as are other minor burns that don’t form a blister. 

2nd-Degree Burns 

A step up from a 1st-degree burn, symptoms include fluid-filled blisters, intense pain, and thickening of the skin. This burn is more dangerous because it causes damage beneath the surface layer of the skin. If you suspect you have sustained a 2nd-degree burn, you should seek medical attention.

This type of burn is common in commercial kitchens and industrial areas. The blister may take some time to form. Do not pop a blister associated with a burn. 

3rd-Degree Burn 

A third-degree burn is a deep, penetrating burn. This type of burn goes through the epidermis, destroying nerve endings and skin. These burns can be white, blackened, or charred in appearance.

They are very serious injuries, and you should call 911 immediately. 3rd-degree burns often require surgery and have a long recovery process.

4th-Degree Burn 

The final stage of burns, this is when the burn is so deep that muscle and bone are affected. This type of injury can be easily fatal and will require extensive treatment and recovery. In many cases, part of the burn may even have to be excised or amputated. If you suspect someone has received a 4th-degree burn, call 911 immediately and follow any instructions you are given.  

Burns and You

Burns aren’t something you want to take lightly.

It’s important for you to know the classification of burns so you know when to seek help. People can die from both the injury and subsequent infections. For third and fourth-degree burns, call an ambulance right away.

If you live in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area, and suspect that you or someone else has a minor or moderate burn, contact us or come for a walk-in visit. Getting treated as soon as possible is key to making a full recovery.