Partial Thickness Burn


A partial thickness burn is also called a second-degree burn. Your skin contains 3 layers. A partial thickness burn occurs when the first layer and some of the second layer have been burned. This type of burn usually heals within 2 to 3 weeks with some scarring.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


You may become dehydrated. You have a higher risk of infection. You may have scarring after the burn heals. Scarring in some places, such as over joints, can cause loss of motion. Without treatment, your burn may become infected, and you may have increased pain. If the burn becomes infected, the burn will take longer to heal.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Chest x-ray:

This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.

A Foley catheter

is a tube put into your bladder to drain urine into a bag. Keep the bag below your waist. This will prevent urine from flowing back into your bladder and causing an infection or other problems. Also, keep the tube free of kinks so the urine will drain properly. Do not pull on the catheter. This can cause pain and bleeding, and may cause the catheter to come out. Caregivers will remove the catheter as soon as possible to help prevent infection.

Intake and output:

Caregivers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day. Ask caregivers if they need to measure or collect your urine.


  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease severe pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more pain medicine.

  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell caregivers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.

  • 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.

  • Anti-itching medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to help keep your skin from itching. This medicine may be given in an IV, as a shot, by mouth, or as a skin lotion. Sometimes this medicine can make you sleepy.

  • Td vaccine: This vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent diphtheria and tetanus. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.


  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.

  • Blood and urine tests: You may need blood or urine tests to check for damage to your muscles, heart, and other organs.

  • ECG: This is also called an EKG. An ECG is done to check for damage or problems in your heart. A short period of electrical activity in your heart is recorded.

  • Laser scanner: This uses a small probe to check the blood flow in your skin.


  • Fluids: If you need more fluid in your body, your caregiver may give you fluids through an IV. These fluids may contain protein, salt water, minerals, or glucose (sugar).

  • Surgery:

    • Debridement: Caregivers remove damaged tissue from your body to prevent infection, decrease inflammation, and improve healing.

    • Skin grafts and flaps: Caregivers cover or replace lost skin with healthy skin. A graft can help close your wounds, prevent infection, and decrease scarring. Skin flap surgery is done to fix large wounds that cannot be covered by skin grafting. A skin flap is skin and tissue near the wound that is used to cover the wound area. Skin flaps may improve the appearance of your skin.

    • Escharotomy: Caregivers make an incision through the dead tissue into the fat layer below. This surgery helps relieve pressure caused by swelling and improves blood flow.

Physical therapy:

Your muscles and joints may not work well after a partial 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.

© 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 Partial Thickness Burn (Inpatient Care)