Your skin is made up of three layers. A second degree burn involves the first layer and some of the second layer. It is also called a partial thickness burn. The burnt skin will be moist, red, swollen, painful to the touch and may have some blisters. Many second degree burns are caused by one of the following: flames, scalds, hot objects, chemicals, sunburn and electricity. This type of burn will heal in about two or three weeks and often leaves scars.
What Is the Second Degree Burn Healing Process?
There are typically two stages in burn healing process. In the first stage, you will have a wound that is open and growing new skin or a spot ready for skin graft treatments. Once the burn has a pink skin covered, the first healing stage is completed.
In the second stage of healing, the body will work to make scar tissues. This is when hypertrophic burn scar formation occurs. After time, the formation of scar tissue will decrease. Next the tissue may become soft and pliable. This stage can last from between 6 months and three years.
Burn Treatment Process
When the treatment begins, you will see fluid resuscitation. This is because wounds demand much of the bodily fluids to promote healing. Next, there will be debridement treatments regularly, as well as wound cleaning and dressing changes. Dead skin must be removed and often the wounded area is rubbed until blood is drawn. This promotes healing and circulation as well as reduces infection. To reduce the chance of scarring, compression items are worn. These may be used for 6 months up to 3 years, depending upon individual desires.
How to Treat the Second Degree Burn
In order to jump start the second degree burn healing process, you will want to take good care of the wound.
1. Rinse the Burn
Begin by rinsing the burn with cold water until the pain resolves. This tends to take about fifteen minutes or so. The cool water will help to reduce the skin’s temperature and keep the burn from getting worse. You can put your hands, legs, feet, toes, fingers or arms in cool water, if the burn is there. Cool compresses can also be applied. Be sure not to use ice and ice water as this drastic cold temperature can cause tissue damage. You also want to remove any rings, jewelry or clothing near the burn as the skin may start to swell.
2. Clean the Burn
Start by washing your hands before touching the burn. Don’t let anything that is dirty get near the burn. The blisters pop easily and can be infected. In fact, you shouldn’t try to pop the blisters. Use mild water and soap to clean the area. With washing, some burned skin will come off. Gently pat the area dry with sanitized gauze or a clean towel. Use an antibiotic ointment or cream. Bacitracin or Polysporin are two very popular options. These can be used every time you clean the wound. Avoid using butter or sprays because they can hold heat in. Cleaning is an essential step in second degree burn healing process.
3. Bandage the Burn
If there aren’t open blisters or open wounds, you may not need a bandage. If the wound or area is going to get dirty or irritated, then you should put a bandage on. To further prevent infection, change your bandage often, especially if it looks soiled. If the bandage gets stuck to a burn, then you will want to soak it in warm water for easy removal. Wrap loosely and avoid pressure on the burn.
If the burn is on the arm or leg, keep the area elevated for 24-48 hours to reduce swelling. You want to be able to move the area normally and to prevent the new skin from growing in too tight, therefore limiting movement.
4. Take Medications
- Infection may be treated with antibiotics such as mezlocillin, oxacillin and gentamicin. They may be used as a prevention if the burn area is large.
- Pain medication such as prescription morphine, acetaminophen with codeine or meperidine may be used in the case of a severe burn.
- Oxandrolone or other anabolic steroids may be used in severe burns to promote the healing.
5. Have Surgery
Skin grafts or other procedures may be needed in the second degree burn healing process. When dead tissue is removed, it is called debridement. With a graft, a piece of skin is sewn over the burn after debridement. Skin grafts may use the person’s own skin, animal skin (generally pig) or from a donor. If it’s from the same person, it will be permanent. In some cases, cosmetic surgery or artificial skin may be used for better aesthetics and function.
6. Treat Electrical and Chemical Burns
If you get a chemical or electrical burn, don’t attempt treatment by yourself. You should see a doctor because these burns can create more damage that is not always visible on the skin. Chemical burns should be flushed with cool water. Remove clothes and jewelry that has the chemical on. Do not apply any ointments or medication as a further reaction may occur. Wrap in a clean cloth and then call poison control or 911.
When to Call Your Doctor
It’s time to call a doctor if:
- There is a fever.
- Swelling, redness or numbness increases in the burn area.
- The wound or the bandage has a foul smell or pus.
- Pain isn’t getting better, but getting worse even with pain meds.
- Eyes or mouth are dry.
- You feel more tired or thirsty.
- You aren’t urinating as often or it is dark yellow.
- You feel dizzy or have a headache.
- You are concerned or have questions about the healing process.