Understanding First-Degree Burns

June 25, 2018

What Are First-Degree Burns?

First-degree burns, also known as superficial burns, only affect the top layer of the skin. Even so, first-degree burns can affect a wide area of skin and become very painful. In general, a first-degree burn requires little to no treatment, though some cases may require you to visit a doctor.

Symptoms of a First-Degree Burn

First-degree burns are recognizable by redness of the skin, pain, and swelling. You should not mistake the swelling of a first-degree burn with the formation of blisters, which occurs in second-degree burns. A first-degree burn will result in a mild level of pain and swelling. Sometimes, skin may peel. They tend to heal after several days.

First-Degree Burn Pain

First-degree burns that cover a larger area of skin tend to have more pain and swelling than smaller burns. A larger burn may not heal as quickly, either. If you suffer a first-degree burn covering a large area of skin, you may want to consult your doctor. You should also seek medical help for any first-degree burns on your face, hands, groin, or feet.

Common Causes of a First-Degree Burn

Sunburns are one of the most common first-degree burns. They arise from spending too much time in the sun without proper sunscreen. UV rays from the sun are responsible for these burns.

Scalds are another common cause of first-degree burns, especially in young children. Any hot liquid spilled from a pot or bowl can cause scalds, as can high outputs of steam. These sorts of wounds mostly appear on the hands and face. You can also suffer a scald from showering in extremely hot temperatures.

First-degree burns can also come from brushing against open flames or touching hot surfaces, like a pan or stove, with your bare hands.

Electricity burns can arise from any number of electronics, wires, and outlets in your home. Children are again at great risk for these types of burns, but plenty of adults can encounter electric burns when attempting to repair appliances. Even if considered first-degree, electrical burns can sometimes affect much more of the skin than is immediately visible. If you suffer an electrical burn, it is best to seek medical help to see the full extent of your injury.

Treatment for First-Degree Burns

You can usually treat first-degree burns at home. Immediately after suffering the burn, you will want to run the burn under cool water or apply a cool compress for five to fifteen minutes. It is important that you don’t use ice or extremely cold water or compresses to tend to your burn, as the sudden shift in temperatures can cause your skin to go into shock, restricting healing.

Oils, including butter, also restrict healing in burns, so you should not use them. However, aloe vera lotion, antibiotic ointments, and even honey are safe to apply to a first-degree burn. These can help speed up the repair and prevent the damaged skin from drying out. In most cases, a little moisturizing and some painkillers are all you need to treat a first-degree burn, and bandaging is not necessary.

If you choose to seek medical help, a doctor will examine the burn for severity. He or she will check to determine how deep into the skin’s layers the burn penetrates, how big the burn is, and if it’s in an area that needs immediate treatment. He or she will also look to see if the burn is showing signs of infection, such as pus, swelling, or oozing.

If your burn becomes extremely swollen, painful, or infected, you should seek a doctor for treatment, as these burns can heal much more slowly. You may also seek the advice of your pediatrician if you are concerned about a burn on your child. If there is an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If your first-degree burn was caused by someone else’s negligent actions, the Phoenix burn injury lawyers at Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A. are here to help: contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

Additional Burn Information and Resources

For additional information regarding the varying degrees of burns, please visit the following pages: second-degree burns, third-degree burnsfourth-degree burns, fifth-degree burns, and sixth-degree burns. For information on other burn types, such as gas grill burns, please visit our practice area page.