It is important to determine the extent of damage to the body tissue in order to classify a minor burn from a serious burn.
The classifications of first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree burns will help provide direction towards emergency care.
A first-degree burn impacts only the outer layer of skin and is the least serious. Common minor burn events may be an accidental touch to the stove or a curling iron. This may cause the skin to redden and swell, and some pain may be present. It is recommended to treat a first-degree burn as minor, unless it involves a significant portion of the face, hands, feet, groin, buttocks, or a major joint, which requires immediate medical attention.
A second-degree burn occurs when the first and second layer of the skin (dermin) has been burned. Common symptoms include blistering of the skin, intense reddening, and severe pain and swelling. A second-degree burn may be treated as a minor burn if it is no larger than 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) in diameter. Minor burns can be treated with cooling the burned area, covering with sterile gauze, and common pain relief methods. A topical cream, such as silver sulfadiazine, may be used to treat minor burns. It can provide pain relief as well as works to stop the growth of bacteria to avoid infection. If the burned area is larger than 3 inches or involves a significant portion of the face, hands, feet, groin, buttocks, or a major joint, it should be treated as a major burn and requires emergency medical attention.