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Classification of Burns

What are the classifications of burns?

Burns are classified as first-, second-, or third-degree, depending on how deep and severe they penetrate the skin's surface.

  • First-degree (superficial) burns
    First-degree burns affect only the epidermis, or outer layer of skin. The burn site is red, painful, dry, and with no blisters. Mild sunburn is an example. Long-term tissue damage is rare and usually consists of an increase or decrease in the skin color.

  • Second-degree (partial thickness) burns
    Second-degree burns involve the epidermis and part of the dermis layer of skin. The burn site appears red, blistered, and may be swollen and painful.

  • Third-degree (full thickness) burns
    Third-degree burns destroy the epidermis and dermis and may go into the subcutaneous tissue. The burn site may appear white or charred

  • Fourth degree burns. Fourth degree burns also damage the underlying bones, muscles, and tendons. There is no sensation in the area since the nerve endings are destroyed..

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 5/18/2013
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