A second-degree burn is one that affects the epidermis, the first layer of skin, and the dermis, the second layer of skin. These types of burns are considered superficial if they don't penetrate the deep layers of the dermis. Second-degree burns are more severe than first-degree burns and require up to three times more time to heal. They also develop blisters to protect the skin beneath as it tries to heal.
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Recognise the signs of a second-degree burn. The skin will look red and blotchy. You will also experience extended pain and swelling. It may appear wet because of the watery fluid from the destruction of tissue.
Run cool water over the burn site for about 15 minutes to remove any debris and to soothe the pain. Avoid cold water or ice, because these may actually cause more damage to the burn site. Pat the burn dry with a clean cloth and apply burn cream or aloe vera to speed the healing process.
Loosely bandage the second-degree burn with a non-stick bandage, preferably a sterile gauze one. If you do not have a bandage handy, you can wrap the burn site in a clean cloth and secure it with medical tape. The bandage should be just tight enough to stay in place and prevent irritants from getting into the wound, but not tight enough to constrict the tissue.
Do not pop the burn blisters that will appear within hours of the injury. They will appear over the burn site and be full of the fluid. Blisters protect the skin as it tries to regenerate itself. It is best to let them resolve on their own. The bandage should be loose enough to accommodate any burn blisters and not put pressure on them.
Check the burn blisters each day for signs of infection. Infected second-degree burns develop red streaks around the burn site. The level of pain also increases when it should be decreasing as the burn heals. You may notice pus or other fluid oozing from the burn site. The blisters will ooze greenish brown fluid. If you think your burn blisters are infected, see your doctor immediately to avoid complications.
Tips and warnings
- If you must pop burn blisters because of their location or their size, do so with a sterilised needle. Wash the area with mild soap and water. Pat dry and then re-bandage. Consider seeing your doctor to have the burn blisters popped. He can do it in a sterile, medical environment, preventing infection and further damage.
- If you experience a second-degree burn larger than two inches in diameter, you should see a medical professional for treatment. Even small second-degree burns on the face, joints or privates should be examined by a medical professional, because they are more likely than other burns to cause complications.
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