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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A second-degree burn is also called a partial-thickness burn. A second-degree burn occurs when the first layer and some of the second layer of skin are burned. A superficial second-degree burn usually heals within 2 to 3 weeks with some scarring. A deep second-degree burn can take longer to heal. A second-degree burn can also get worse after a few days and become a third-degree burn.
Seek care immediately if:
- You have a fast heartbeat or breathing.
- You are not urinating.
Call your doctor or burn specialist if:
- You have a fever.
- You have increased redness, numbness, or swelling in the burn area.
- Your wound or bandage is leaking pus and has a bad smell.
- Your pain does not get better, or gets worse, even after you take pain medicine.
- You have a dry mouth or eyes.
- You are overly thirsty or tired.
- You have dark yellow urine or urinate less than usual.
- You have a headache or feel dizzy.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- Medicines may be given to decrease pain, prevent infection, or help your burn heal. They may be given as a pill or as an ointment applied to your skin.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her 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.
- Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel.
- Remove old bandages. 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. Pat the area dry. Look for any swelling or redness around the burn. Do not break closed blisters. You may cause a skin 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.
- Elevate your burned arm or leg above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your burned arm or leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
- Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink extra liquid to help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
- Go to physical therapy, if directed. Your muscles and joints may not work well after a second-degree burn. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
Prevent second-degree 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. Make sure it is no longer lit. Then dispose of it safely.
- Store dangerous items out of the reach of children. Store cigarette lighters, matches, and chemicals where children cannot reach them. Use child safety latches on the door of the safe storage area.
- Keep your water heater setting to low or medium (90°F to 120°F, or 32°C to 48°C).
- Wear sunscreen that has a sun protectant factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. The sunscreen should also have ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. Follow the directions on the label when you use sunscreen. Put on more sunscreen if you are in the sun for more than an hour. Reapply sunscreen often if you go swimming or are sweating.
Follow up with your doctor or burn specialist 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.
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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.
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