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​Learn About Burns

UPMC Content 2

Burn Injury Facts

  • Almost half of all burns happen at home.
  • Scald injuries from hot liquids are the leading cause of burns among young children.
  • Burn injuries can happen in seconds, but their effects can last a lifetime.

What Is a Burn?

A burn is an injury from heat, cold, chemicals, radiation, or electricity. Burns can be minor or very serious, depending on what part and how much of the body is affected.

Burns can affect different layers of the skin:

  • Superficial burns (first degree): The top (epidermis) layer of skin turns red/pink and is mildly painful. Some swelling may occur, but no blisters form.
  • Partial thickness burns (second degree): The top and middle (dermis) layers of skin are injured, causing blisters, pain, and swelling. The blisters may break, and the skin underneath will be red/pink and wet.
  • Full thickness burns (third degree): All skin layers are destroyed, and the skin becomes white, dry, and painless.

How to Treat a Burn

Burns require fast medical attention. However, you can follow the steps below to help until medical attention is available.

  • Drop and Roll: Drop and roll to extinguish flames, if clothing is on fire. (For scalds, immediately remove hot, wet clothing.)
  • Stop the Burning Process: Cool burned areas initially with water, then cover with clean dry gauze or sheets. Do not apply ice as this will constrict blood flow to the burn area and can extend the depth of injury as well as contribute to hypothermia.
  • Remove Burned Clothing: Lay the person flat: Remove non-sticking clothing. Loosen or remove tight clothing, jewelry, or boots before swelling occurs.
  • Cover the Burn: After cooling the burn with water, apply a clean dry dressing to the burned area. Cover the person to stay warm.
  • Get Medical Help: Get the person to a hospital. Never underestimate the seriousness of a burn.
  • Don't Use Ointments: Do not apply ointments, sprays, first aid creams, or butter to a burn.

Source: The Burn Foundation