A first-degree burn is also called a superficial burn or wound.
It’s an injury that affects the first layer of your skin. First-degree burns
are one of the mildest forms of skin injuries, and they usually don’t require
medical treatment. However, some superficial burns can be quite large or
painful and may require a trip to your doctor.
Are the Symptoms of a First-Degree Burn?
The symptoms of first-degree burns are often minor and tend to heal
after several days. The most common things you may notice at first are skin
redness, pain, and swelling. The pain and swelling may be mild and your skin
may start to peel after a day or so. In contrast, second-degree burns blister
and are more painful due to an increased depth of the burn wound.
For a first-degree burn that occurs in larger areas of your skin,
you may experience an increased level of pain and swelling. You may want to
report large wounds to your doctor. Larger burns may not heal as fast as
An Important Note About Electrical Burns
First-degree burns that are caused by electricity may affect more
of the skin than you can see in the top layer. It’s a good idea to seek medical
treatment immediately after the accident occurs.
Causes a First-Degree Burn?
Common causes of superficial burns include the following:
Sunburn develops when you stay out in the sun too long and don’t
apply enough sunscreen. The sun produces intense ultraviolet (UV) rays that can
penetrate the outer layer of your skin and cause it to redden, blister, and
Scalds are a common cause of first-degree burns in children younger
than 4 years old. Hot liquid spilled from a pot on the stove or the steam
emitted from hot liquid may cause burns to the hands, face, and body.
Scalds can also occur if you bathe or shower in extremely hot
water. A safe water temperature should be at or below 120˚F. Temperatures
higher than this can lead to more serious skin injuries, especially in young
Electrical sockets, electrical cords, and appliances can appear
intriguing to a young child, but they pose considerable dangers. If your child
sticks a finger or any object into the openings of a socket, bites on an
electrical cord, or plays with an appliance, they can get burned or
electrocuted from exposure to electricity.
Is a First-Degree Burn Treated?
You can treat most first-degree burns at home. You should call
your child’s pediatrician if you’re concerned about a burn your child received.
Their doctor will examine the burn to determine its severity.
They’ll look at the burn to see:
- how deep it penetrates the skin’s layers
- if it’s large or in an area that requires
immediate treatment, such as the eyes, nose, or mouth
- if it shows signs of infection, such as oozing,
pus, or swelling
You should see your doctor if your burn becomes infected,
swollen, or extremely painful. Burns on certain areas may require a visit to
the doctor. These burns may heal slower than burns on other areas of the body
and require a visit to the doctor. These areas include the:
Home Care Treatment
If you choose to treat your wound at home, place a cool compress
over it to relieve the pain and swelling. You may do this for five to 15
minutes and then remove the compress. Avoid using ice or extremely cold
compresses because they can aggravate the burn.
Avoid applying any type of oil, including butter, to a burn.
These oils prevent healing in the site. However, products containing aloe vera with
lidocaine may help with pain relief and are available over the counter. Aloe vera, as well as honey, lotion, or antibiotic ointments, can also be applied to first-degree burns to reduce drying and speed up repair of the damaged skin.
Long Does It Take for a First-Degree Burn to Heal?
As the skin heals, it may peel. Additionally, it may take three
to 20 days for a first-degree burn to heal properly. Healing time may depend on
the area affected. Always consult your doctor if the burn shows signs of infection
or becomes worse.
How Can First-Degree Burns Be Prevented?
Most first-degree burns can be prevented if you take the right
precautions. Follow these tips to prevent first-degree burns:
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen or sunblock with a
sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher
to prevent sunburn.
- Keep hot cooking pots on the back burners with
the handles turned toward the center of the stovetop to prevent accidents.
Also, be sure to watch young children in the kitchen.
- A safe water temperature should be at or below
120˚F. Most water heaters have a maximum setting of 140˚F. You can manually
reset your hot-water tank to have a maximum of 120˚F to avoid burns.
- Cover all exposed electrical sockets in your
home with childproof covers.
- Unplug appliances that aren’t in use.
- Place electrical cords where your child cannot