Burns are classified on both their surface penetration and severity. They can be labeled as first, second, third, or fourth-degree. It is important to remember that many of the causes of burns remain the same for each degree. What separates them is the extent of the damage caused by the burn.
A first-degree burn, also known as a mild or superficial burn, affects the first layer of skin and is the least harmful of the burn types. Although first-degree burns are seldom severe, they can become quite painful, at which point you should seek professional medical assistance.
Second-degree burns, also referred to as partial-thickness burns, are marked by pain, blistering and superficial destruction of the outer and lower layers of skin (dermis). As a result, second-degree burns develop blisters and become extremely red and sore, differentiating the severity level from first-degree burns.
Third-degree burns, also referred to as full-thickness burns, severely damage all layers of the skin – often times destroying them completely. As a result, third-degree burns are typically marked by leathery-white, blackened, or charred skin and can be relatively painless due to the destruction of nerve endings. Third-degree burns always require immediate medical attention and should never be self-treated.
Fourth-degree burns are the deepest and most severe burn. They’re potentially life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. These burns destroy all layers of your skin, as well as your bones, muscles, and tendons.
Although fourth-degree burns are primarily the result of large fires and dangerous chemicals, other sources include: