A second-degree burn affects the top two layers of skin (the epidermis and dermis). It is more serious than a first-degree burn.
Signs and symptoms of second-degree burns include severe pain, swelling, redness, and blisters that sometimes break open. The area can be wet looking with a bright pink to cherry red color. Deep burns can result in scarring.
Burns can be caused by contact with fire, heated objects, steam, hot liquids, or chemicals. Exposure to electrical currents, radiation, and the sun can also lead to second-degree burns.
Small second-degree burns (no larger than 3 inches in diameter) can usually be treated at home. Larger burns or burns located on the face, hands, feet, groin, or major joints need to be treated by a doctor immediately.
The first step in relieving symptoms is to apply cool water to the area for at least 5 minutes. Do not put ice, butter, or ointments on a burn. To protect the wound, you can cover the area with a dry, clean cloth or sheet.
Second-degree burns can be very painful and need to be watched carefully for infection. With proper treatment, however, most will heal in about 3 weeks. Taking safety precautions at home can help prevent many burns.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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