A partial thickness burn (also known as a second degree burn) is a burn that affects the top two layers of skin, called the epidermis and hypodermis. Partial thickness burns can continue to change over time and can evolve to a full thickness burn (or third degree burn), even after initial treatment. Partial thickness burns are serious and have a high risk of developing infection or other complications.
Partial thickness burns can be caused by heat, friction, electricity, light, radiation or chemicals. According to the American Burn Association, the majority of burns are a direct result of fire or flame, followed by scalds.
In addition to depth, all burns are classified by severity, such as major, moderate and minor, based upon a number of factors:
Generally, partial thickness burns are placed into two categories: superficial partial thickness burns and deep partial thickness burns. The depth of a burn can be difficult to determine and should be evaluated by a health care professional. Distinguishing between superficial and deep partial thickness burns is important because the former may spontaneously heal on its own, while the latter is likely to require surgical treatment.
Superficial partial thickness burns extend superficially into the second layer of skin. Symptoms include:
Deep partial thickness burns extend deeply into the second layer of skin and can quickly evolve into a full thickness (or third degree) burn. Symptoms include:
Children are at great risk for burns, as are individuals in high-risk job categories such as:
Partial thickness burns are serious and should be treated by a health care professional immediately. First aid that can be administered prior to medical treatment includes:
A health care professional can evaluate the proper bandage needed and if further treatment is required. Depending on the location and size of the burn, additional treatments may include:
Safety measures in the home and on the job are important steps to preventing burns. The following actions can help prevent burn injuries: