Understanding Third-Degree Burns (Full Thickness Burns)

June 25, 2018

What Are Third-Degree Burns?

Third-degree burns damage all three layers of the skin, and are also known as full thickness burns. In some cases, a third-degree burn can even reach through the skin to muscles and bones. These burns are much more severe than first- and second-degree burns and require medical assistance.

Symptoms of a Third-Degree Burn

With a third-degree burn, your skin may appear to be white, brown, black, or even leathery. You will be able to see deep layers of skin damage. In some cases, bones and muscle may be visible if the burn has reached deep enough.

Third-Degree Burn Pain

Unlike first and second-degree burns, which are painful, third-degree burns have no levels of pain at all. This is because a third-degree burn is severe enough to damage the nerve endings, making them unable to feel anything; such burns are very serious. If you experience a burn but feel no pain, contact a medical professional immediately.

Common Causes of a Third-Degree Burn

Third-degree burns most commonly arise from extended direct contact with a hot surface, whereas lower level burns often arise from a short period of contact with a hot surface. Potential sources of burns include hot water, steam, tar, cigarettes, fireworks, electrical outlets, hot pans, a hot iron, oil, and more.

Harsh chemicals are also likely to cause third-degree burns, especially with extended exposure. This can include cleaning products, gasoline, cement, car battery acid, and other corrosive substances.

The sap of the giant hogweed plant can also cause serious inflammation and burns when contacting human skin under sunlight. In effect, the sap makes your skin conductive to intense sunburn; such burns are still sensitive to sunlight after healing.

Large electrical outputs, such as exposure to damaged electrical cords and outlets, are a risk factor for third-degree burns, as is lightning.

Treatment for Third-Degree Burns

Because of the severity of the damage caused by a third-degree burn, it is important to seek medical help immediately. The deep level of penetration into the skin puts a third-degree burn at very high risk for infection, and nerve damage can last much longer without the proper treatment. Though you may not feel as if you are in dire condition due to not being in pain, your burn is a serious injury and you should treat it as such.

After a doctor examines your burn, they will likely administer medication to reduce pain and inflammation, fight infection, or to assist your wound with healing. Such medicines can be either in pill or ointment form. Your doctor will also dress your burn to keep it protected.

Some third-degree burns may require surgery. Surgeries have many purposes, such as removing damaged tissue, replacing lost skin, relieving pressure, and improving blood flow. Overall, a surgery can assist with healing, fight infection, and help reduce the risk of scarring.

When tending to your burn after returning home, it is important to follow the proper care procedures. You will want to wash your hands before removing your bandages. It can be helpful to soak your bandage in water so that it doesn’t stick to your injury. You’ll want to clean the wound and apply burn creams or ointments, especially if your doctor prescribed you one. When rewrapping the injury, be sure to keep the bandage snug, but not tight enough to cause numbness.

Third-degree burns can lead to infections and other health complications. If you start to experience illness, signs of infection, or lightheadedness, you should seek additional healthcare to determine your exact condition.

If a burn affects not just the skin, but also the muscle and bone, you may require physical therapy. Such damages can make free movement difficult, especially if they occur near joints.

If your third-degree burn was caused by another’s negligent actions in Arizona, the Phoenix burn injury lawyers at Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A. are here to help get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation either online or over the phone.

Additional Burn Information and Resources

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