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Burn Center

Frequently Asked Questions About Burns

Burns are some of the most challenging injuries to treat. Some of the most common questions asked by patients and family members include:

Q: What is the difference between first-, second- and third-degree burns?

A: First-degree burns involve the outer most layer of skin. A very bad sunburn is considered a first-degree burn.

Second-degree burns occur when the second layer of skin is burned. These burns often have blisters and are painful.

Third-degree burns are the most serious and involve all layers of the skin. These burns often cause permanent tissue damage and can be life-threatening.  

Learn more about the degrees of burns >

Q: What should I do if I get burned?

A: It depends on the level of burn. Most first-degree burns can be treated at home. It's advised to immerse the burn in cool tap water or apply a cold, wet compress. Do not apply ice, butter or ointments to the burn. Cover the burn with a sterile bandage. If blisters form, do not pop them; let them heal on their own. Take over-the-counter pain medication to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. 

Second- or third-degree burns require immediate medical attention and should be treated at a hospital or at a burn center. 

Read about when to see a specialist >

Q: What do I need to know about electrical or chemical burns?

A: Any burns caused by electricity or chemicals should be seen by a specialist at a burn center.

Q: How long do burns take to heal?

A: Healing time for burns can vary widely. First-degree burns usually heal within a few days to a week. More serious burns can take weeks or months to heal. 

Q: When should I see a burn specialist?

A: Any burn more serious than a first-degree burn should be seen by a burn specialist at a burn center. 

Q: What is a skin graft for a burn?

A: A skin graft is a thin layer of skin that is taken from an unburned area of the body and used to cover a badly burned area. Skin grafts are most often used for third-degree burns and, to a lesser extent, second-degree burns.  

Most burns require immediate medical attention. If you have experienced a burn that requires urgent medical attention, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Appointments for Non-Urgent Burns

If you have a non-urgent burn and would like a second opinion, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who treat burns.