How to Treat a Second–Degree Burn

Four Parts:Rinsing Your BurnCleaning Your BurnBandaging Your BurnUsing Medicines and Professional Treatment

Second-degree burns, also known as partial thickness burns, are burns that affect the top two layers of your skin, and are normally caused by exposing your skin directly to heat or flames, harsh chemicals, the sun, and damaged electrical cords or outlets. Second-degree burns can usually be treated effectively at home or with medicines and surgery.

Part 1
Rinsing Your Burn

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    Verify that your burns are second-degree burns. Third-degree burns, which are far more serious, require immediate emergency medical treatment. The symptoms of second-degree burns are as follows:
    • Deep redness
    • Swollen skin
    • Blisters that may break open and look wet and shiny
    • Skin that is painful to the touch
    • Red, splotchy skin color
    • Burned area is white or discolored in an irregular pattern
    • Severe pain
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    Rinse the burned area of your skin under cool water until you no longer feel pain. Cool water helps lower the temperature of your skin and prevents the burn from becoming more serious. Alternately, you can place the burned area of your skin in a tub or basin of cool water, or apply cool compresses to the affected area.
    • Avoid using ice or freezing water to treat your burn, since this can lead to tissue damage.
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    Remove any jewelry and clothing from the burned area. This will prevent jewelry or clothing from becoming too tight and difficult to remove if the burned area becomes swollen.[1]

Part 2
Cleaning Your Burn

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    Wash your hands thoroughly using mild soap and water. This helps prevent bacteria from infecting your burn, especially if open blisters have formed.
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    Gently use your hands or a soft cloth to clean the burn using mild soap and water. Keep in mind that some pieces of burned skin may come off at the time you wash your skin.
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    Pat the burned area dry using a piece of gauze or soft cloth. This helps reduce pain and prevents the burned area from becoming irritated further.

Part 3
Bandaging Your Burn

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    Inspect your burn to determine whether a bandage is needed. Burned skin or closed blisters may not require bandaging; however, broken blisters or burned skin at risk for becoming dirty or irritated by clothing may require a bandage.
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    Apply cream, ointment, or a natural product to your burn that promotes healing. Purchase creams and ointments for burns from your local drugstore, or apply aloe vera, honey, or a mixture of turmeric powder and all-natural yogurt to the burn.[2]
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    Wrap your burn loosely using gauze or a bandage. This prevents extra pressure from being applied to the burned area.
    • Avoid taping bandages in a circle around a limb, as this can increase swelling.
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    Apply gentle pressure to the wound if bleeding occurs. This will help reduce and stop bleeding.[3]
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    Apply a new, clean bandage when the bandage becomes wet or soiled for any reason. This lowers your risk for bacterial infection.
    • If the bandage becomes stuck to your burn, soak the affected area in warm water so the bandage can be more easily removed.

Part 4
Using Medicines and Professional Treatment

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    Consult with your healthcare provider to receive professional treatment and product recommendations. Your doctor can recommend over-the-counter medicines or prescription medications that can help decrease pain and accelerate the healing of your burn.
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    Ask your healthcare provider about the possibility of undergoing surgery. Surgery can help prevent infection, decrease inflammation, and remove damaged tissue. Surgery can also replace lost skin, improve blood flow to the burned area, and reduce scarring.


  • If your arm or leg has become burned, keep your limb raised as much as possible for the first 48 hours to limit swelling as much as possible. Continue to move your limb as normal to prevent the skin from tightening excessively as it heals.


  • Do not break any closed blisters. Breaking open blisters on your own will increase your risk for infection and prolong the healing process.
  • Seek emergency medical treatment if you experience a rapid heartbeat, problems with breathing or urinating, fever, dry mouth, extreme thirst, or dizziness. These signs indicate that you may have an infection, or that your burns are more severe than you initially thought and require professional medical attention.

Things You’ll Need

  • Mild soap
  • Soft cloth
  • Gauze or bandages
  • Topical creams and ointment for burns (optional)
  • Aloe vera, honey, yogurt, turmeric powder (optional)

Article Info

Categories: Stings Bites and Burns