I hear a lot about 1st degree, 2nd degree or 3rd burns, but what do these mean? Which burn is worst, 1st degree or 3rd degree? How bad is each one?

1 Answer
Nov 4, 2016

The degree of burn refers to the level of skin that is affected by the burn.


First Degree Burns are burns that affect the superficial skin layers. They do not cause blistering or breakage of skin and heal by themselves.

Second Degree Burns affect the underlying areas of skin as well. Blisters are common and pain is more intense, while healing takes longer and scarring might occur.

Third Degree Burns are those which affect all the layers of skin and expose the underlying body parts. Pain is less or absent because of the destruction of nerve endings. Healing requires extensive treatment which could include grafting as the skin cannot grow back in the affected area. Scarring is certain.

While, in general, Third Degree (and Fourth Degree, those which also affect underlying organs) Burns are the worst, a lot also depends on the lateral extent of the burn. For instance, a Third Degree Burn of the little toe could actually be less harmful than a Second Degree Burn of the entire face or upper body.