Medication Guide App

Full Thickness Burn


A full thickness burn is also called a third-degree burn. The skin contains 3 layers. A full thickness burn occurs when all 3 layers have been burned. This may also include damage to the bones and muscles. A full thickness burn is the most serious type of burn.



  • Ointments: These medicines prevent infection and help your burn heal. The ointment may be placed on your skin or may be part of your bandage.

  • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain and lowers a fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage. Do not drink alcohol if you take acetaminophen.

  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease severe pain. Take the medicine as directed. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return to have your wound checked and your bandage changed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Burn care:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Remove old bandages and place them in a small plastic bag. You may need to soak the bandage in water before you remove it so it will not stick to your wound.

  • Gently clean the burned area daily with mild soap and water, and pat dry. Look for any swelling or redness around the burn. Do not break closed blisters because this increases the risk of infection.

  • Apply cream or ointment to the burn with a cotton swab. Place a nonstick bandage over your burn.

  • Wrap a layer of gauze around the bandage to hold it in place. The wrap should be snug but not tight. It is too tight if you feel tingling or lose feeling in that area.

  • Apply gentle pressure for a few minutes if bleeding occurs.

  • Raise a burned arm or leg above your heart as often as you can to reduce swelling. Use pillows to raise the area comfortably.

Drink liquids as directed:

This will help prevent dehydration after your burn. Adults should drink between 9 and 13 eight-ounce cups of liquid every day. Ask what amount is best for you. For most people, good liquids to drink are water, juice, and milk.

Physical therapy:

Your muscles and joints may not work well after a full thickness burn. You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you exercises that will improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

Prevent full thickness burns:

  • Do not leave cups, mugs, or bowls containing hot liquids at the edge of a table. Keep pot handles turned away from the stove front.

  • Do not leave a lit cigarette. Discard it properly. Keep cigarette lighters and matches in a safe place where children cannot reach them.

  • Keep your water heater setting to low or medium.

Contact your primary healthcare provider or burn specialist if:

  • You feel weak and have pale, clammy skin.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have increased redness, numbness, or swelling in the burned area.

  • Your pain is not relieved or is getting worse even after you take pain medicine.

  • Your wound or bandage is leaking pus and has a bad smell.

  • You have sudden shortness of breath.

  • You have a fast heartbeat and chest pain.

  • You feel so dizzy that you have trouble standing up.

  • Your lips or fingernails turn blue.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Full Thickness Burn (Aftercare Instructions)