Types of burns and their severity

You can get burned simply by touching a hot stove or spending too much time in the sun. In cold winter months, you may experience wind burn that makes your cheeks extra red and sometimes even raw. Carpet burns and other types of friction burns come from skin rubbed raw by another material.

More severe burns come from fire, steam or chemicals, and usually require medical care.

Burns fall into three categories ranging from the least to most serious:

  • First-degree burns – Only affect the first layer of the skin, causing pain, redness and swelling.
  • Second-degree burns – Affect the first and underlying layer of skin, causing pain, redness, swelling and blistering.
  • Third-degree burns – Affect all layers of the skin including the deepest layer. The burned skin may be numb and may also be charred (blackened) or white.

You may also have a respiratory burn resulting from smoke or chemical inhalation.

When to get medical help for burns

Burns may cause symptoms that require urgent medical attention. Call 911 if you or someone else:

  • Is in shock
  • Has been electrocuted
  • Has been burned by chemicals
  • Has inhaled smoke
  • Has a burn larger than the palm of your hand

You should also get help if you have reason to believe the burn was caused intentionally by someone else.

If you’ve been treating a burn at home and the pain lasts more than two days or shows signs of infection, you may need to see a doctor.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.