Difference Between First-Degree Burns and Second-Degree Burns

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: October 11, 2023


Difference Between First-Degree Burns and Second-Degree Burns

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In this article, we will discuss the crucial differences between two kinds of burns that are first-degree burns and second-degree burns. The reason for this discussion is to know the severity of the injury so that medical help is also sought after accordingly. Also, knowing the difference helps in giving suitable first aid care as well. The difference between the burns can be observed simply by taking a look at the injury or the severity of the damage that is caused on the skin's upper layer or the dermis. This is usually a  common injury that can occur while cooking, cleaning a hot oven, wiping the engine of a motorbike, etc. The majority of the burns that we end up getting at home are first-degree burns, as these burns are usually not very severe and can be treated at home by the use of general ointments that are available at a pharmacy.

The unusual thing about First-degree burns is that even sunburns can be classified under this category, from minor oil splashes to skin redness and irritation due to heat from steam. But all these things can also cause second-degree burns as well when it causes blisters on the skin and the skin blanches under pressure and is moist. The burn is painful. For the first-degree burns, they heal and go away on their own mostly, and They can be treated with topical ointments if needed, such as aloe vera gel or antibiotics. Patients also may take acetaminophen to help with the pain, and the risk of scarring from such burns is also quite low. Second-degree burns usually need to be treated with an antibiotic ointment or with a prescription. Patients can also take pain medication as needed, but it’s a must to get a prescription from a certified doctor. Cooling sheets and Bandages may also be used to help keep the wound cool and clean, which helps with skin irritation as well.

First-Degree Burns Vs Second Degree Burns

The main difference between the two kinds of burns is based on their severity and appearance. The first-degree burns, as the name suggests, are less severe, and their appearance is also non-complex. First-degree burns are minor burns like a burn from touching a hot saucepan or from picking a hot boiled egg to Sunburns. These are simple redness on the skin and irritation of the skin, which causes light uneasiness; these are generally quick healing and don’t need any medical attention. They are also common in normal life. Second-degree burns are more severe and cause bloody blisters. These are more painful and are quick to heal, which is the reason that they need medical attention and proper bandaging to avoid infections and pain. Second-degree burns are treated easily by submerging the burnt area of the skin in cold water and then covering it with dry, non-stick bandages or gel pads to protect and heal the wound. This may take two to three weeks to heal and can also result in scarring.

Difference Between First-Degree Burns and Second-Degree Burns

ParametersFirst-Degree BurnsSecond-Degree Burns
Layers of Skin affectedFirst-degree burns are non-severe so they don't injure deeper layers of the skin and impact only the upper layer which is the epidermis. It causes skin redness and irritation.Second-degree burns are worse than first-degree burns and so they affect deeper layers of the skin from the epidermis to the super superficial dermis and deep dermis.
Appearance of the BurnThese burns appear red irritated and slightly swollen at times.These burns are severe so they appear red bloody with blisters and slight swell around the wound at times.
Time taken in complete healingThese heal faster in about a week or so as these only impact the upper layer of the skin, the rejuvenation process is faster and mostly leaves no scarring.These take at least 2 to 3 weeks to heal the reason behind this is that these are more severe burns and affect deeper layers of skin and thus take longer time to rejuvenate. The skin might remain sensitive to heat even after healing.
TreatmentIn first-degree burns, the need for professional care is usually negligible as these are self-healing some normal ointments sold at pharmacies can help speed up the process and reduce pain. But these burns do not need much treatment at best.These are more severe burns and are usually submerged and washed from cold water for cooling and then covered with dry, non-stick bandages or gel pads to protect and heal the wound. This may take two to three weeks to heal and can also result in scarring.
Complications that can be causedThese burns can make skin more sensitive and can increase the risk of diseases like skin cancer in the future.These burns are severe so these leave the patient open to complications like infection, skin cancer and scarring as well.
Professional help neededThese burns usually do not need professional helpThese burns need professional help to avoid the risk of infection, scarring and severe pain.

What is a First Degree Burn?

Burns are injuries that damage the layer of the skin because a substance with a very high temperature was in contact with the skin but how severe the damage is depends on how hot and how long the skin was in contact with the substance in the case of first degree burns both these things are low, as in smaller duration of contact and less temperature which why these are called first-degree burns let’s understand them further.

First-degree burns are the common superficial burns that we become the victim of in everyday life, and are mostly pretty mild these as such, do not hinder functioning and heal quickly. They are still painful, but not too painful, and so are not a major concern, as mentioned. Symptoms of a first-degree burn usually  include irritation of the skin, pain, and redness at the site of contact but no blisters, only irritation

First-degree burns generally heal and go away on their own in a week mostly. They can also be treated with assistance from topical ointments, such as aloe vera gel or antibiotics. Patients often also take medicines like acetaminophen to help with the pain from the burn. Some of the common ways that people end up with a first-degree burn are during cooking, sunbathing using heat styling equipment and unknowing contact with slightly hot water. First-degree burns are very easy healing one can simply run them under cold water for several minutes to ease the pain and reduce skin irritation. They also can be soothed with burn cream and aloe vera gel and usually heal within one week, but They also cause a heightened risk of skin disease like cancer as the skin of that area becomes sensitive to heat. These burns do not leave any scarring.

What is a Second Degree Burn?

Second-degree burns also affect the layer of skin and cause damage, but Second-degree burns are a bit more severe than first-degree ones. These burns affect more layers of skin, at least two more, and also cause pain, redness, and blood. However, blisters are more likely to develop in second-degree burns, and swelling is possible and, in most cases, very prominent.

The treatment of second-degree burns, the treatment largely depends on the size of the second-degree burn, some of the burns may heal without medical intervention. If the layers of skin are damaged. However, it’s best to get the burn looked at by a Physician. Second-degree burns at times need treatment with an antibiotic ointment or a prescription to ensure that there are no severe recursions like infection scarring, improper healing etc. Patients can still take pain medication as needed, but it’s important not to go over the daily dosage as it is not required. Bandages and cooling gel are also often used to help keep the wound clean and cool.  More care is needed for second-degree burns as these are more severe, and so the risk factor is high, though they are quite easy to cause. Even hot tea can also cause a second-degree burn along with a hot car engine; it is important to take proper treatment of a second-degree burn when injured as this can cause scarring. Like First-degree burns, these burns can also make the skin sensitive to heat and Prone to cancer.

Main Differences Between First-Degree Burns And Second Degree Burns in Points

  • Future Risks: First-degree Burns does not cause any such major future risks, apart from making the skin prone to cancer. Second-degree burns, on the other hand, can cause major risks like Infection of the wound and scarring in the area, and these also make the skin sensitive to heat and prone to cancer.
  • Depth affected: The depth of the skin that is affected by both these burns is different as the First-degree burn causes less depth of skin to get affected only the first layer or the epidermis. Second-degree burns cause injury to more layers of skin, so more depth is affected as multiple layers are damaged, and a longer period for healing is required.
  • Complete care time: The area of the skin that is affected by the First-degree burn needs at least one week of proper care till fully healed and more care for a couple of more weeks as the area becomes sensitive to heat. The skin burnt by second-degree burns needs great care for at least a good two to three weeks as the area burnt takes a longer time to heal. After that, care and attention should be paid to the area for at least a year as this area becomes heat sensitive and prone to cancer.
  • Medication Needed: In case of first-degree burns, there is usually no need for medication as these heal on their own in a week or so, but it’s best to get them checked by the doctor at least once. In case of degree burns, there is a need for medication or antibiotics, and they are usually bandaged to prevent infections and bacteria.
  • Texture: The texture of both burns is also very different first-degree burns are usually dry as these burns do not cause any blisters and simply cause redness and irritation. Second-degree burns are wet in texture because of bloody blisters and the swelling that occurs around them.


We can conclude this article by understanding the severity of both the burns and the pain and discomfort caused by these burns. The simple way to save ourselves from the pain and complexities caused by burns is through prevention. We should pay close attention while cooking anything with oil or when heat is involved, especially when children are nearby or when the area is crowded. We should also make sure that our home is installed with proper emergency fire utility devices like a fire extinguisher that is easily accessible. Don’t put any electrical equipment near water and keep them away from children. Lastly, always check the temperature of bath water before bathing your child.

Apart from prevention, It is also crucial to know the methods of treating different degrees of burns for first-degree burns. We should wash the affected area with cold water and apply aloe vera gel or any cooling ointment Available. Further, because first-degree burns do not cause blisters. There is no need for any other treatment, but consulting a doctor is advisable. For the treatment of a second-degree burn, the affected area is cleaned under cold water, and then the affected area is bandaged after applying ointments or a cooling gel to prevent the area from getting infected and to ensure that there is no severe scarring. Through this article, we have established the difference between different burns so that differentiation among different degrees of burns can be done effectively, and the treatment for the same can be done on the same basis. As written, different degrees of burns have different textures, making them very different from each other in appearance.


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"Difference Between First-Degree Burns and Second-Degree Burns." Diffzy.com, 2024. Sun. 16 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-first-degree-burns-and-second-degree-burns>.

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