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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Management of 2nd degree superficial burns- (2nd degree burns)

Dear burn surgeon,
My daughter has a burn with hot soup on the hand with a lot of ugly looking blisters. Am worried as it’s quite painful. How will it heal and will it leave a scar?
Magaret p

Thank you very much for your question. You have not sent me a photograph, so I shall put up a representative one to explain things better. For a better understanding of this topic also read the blog topic: degree of burns.
The photograph shows a burn of the right hand with hot water (called scald burns). There are some areas of redness which represent a 1st degree burn. There is a large blister on the dorsum of the hand. It is tense and full of serous fluid. This is a good sign as it implies a second degree superficial burn and not a deep burn. There are no areas of deep burns seen on this hand and it probably looks similar to your daughter’s burn.

Well don’t panic!

Blisters are a good sign as they imply a superficial burn. The epidermis just separates from the dermis and only the uppermost part of the dermis is burnt. So this should heal easily by God’s grace.

Pain is also a good sign in early burns. Why? Well pain perception occurs because we have nerve endings in the dermis which pick up the pain sensations from the mediators released due to the burn. If these nerve endings are also burnt as occurs in a deep burn, then the pain will be less or even absent and though we may like it , its implies a deep burn and that we may need surgery to heal the wound!!

Should we break or puncture the blister?

That’s a good question. Blister fluid makes the skin tense and induces pain mechanically. When you puncture the blister and release the fluid this mechanism of pain is removed.
Again, blister fluid contains a lot of chemical substances which are detrimental to the wound healing process and promotes pain. In small blister I would advice that the blister be puncture and the fluid drained out. There is no need to de-roof the blister as the dead skin serves as a biological dressing. However in large areas, the dead skin will serve as a source of infection and should be removed totally during the dressing process.

What happens if we remove the blister skin?
Lot of patients as well as parents are very concerned and worried when you tell them that the blister skin will be removed as they feel that it will expose the muscle or bone below.

Don’t worry; the only thing it exposes is the dermis below. The picture on the right shows a hand burns which had large blister which was removed and the dermis or deeper layer of the skin is exposed. The wound is clean and is clearly a second degree superficial burn which is then dressed as described below.

Does this need a burn professional to take care of the wound?

Definitely! This wound needs daily or sometimes alternate day dressing depending on the condition of the wound which need to be evaluated regularly. All procedures should be done in a sterile manner by a burn professional to prevent any infection. Further signs of infection of the wound are picked up by burn professionals easily.

What type of dressing?
Well the nurse will first clean the wound with sterile saline solution and remove any loose debris. Then a layer of sterile Vaseline gauze or sofratulle may be applied, so that the dressing does not stick to the wound the next time it is opened. An antibacterial ointment or silver sulphadiazine or other burn creams available in your place will work and can be applied over this and then covered by gauze padding and a crepe bandage. There is no need to go in for expensive dressing materials or ointments for a burn of this kind.
If there is too much pain, a local anesthetic cream such as lignocaine gel can be applied before the start of dressing.

How often should we change the dressing?
Well, for a superficial burn of this kind, wound dressings can be changed every 2nd or 3rd day depending on the follow up. If the wound appears soggy or there is too much discharge, change the dressing more frequently.

Should antibiotics be given for this case?
Antibiotics in general are not prescribed routinely for burn patients the first time they are seen. I would not advice any antibiotic in this case. However in case the patient is diabetic or the wound begins to show signs of infection on follow up or if the patient is immunocompromised, one may need to start antibiotics depending on the merits of each case. That’s why you need a burn professional to follow up these cases.

When do we expect this wound to heal?
Well, healing should occur in about two week’s time. Burns take their time to heal and we have to be patient!! The patient has to be patient !!!

How can we spend this time off from work?
On a lighter note:
You could take time off from work and do the following ;
Relax, forget the burn :)
Think about the past and the years passed by- did your life benefit anyone around you?
Plan for the future
Spend time with your kids- for once they will seem happy
Spend quality time with your wife
Make the house a home- though you spend one third of your life sleeping and half of it at work
Call your friends, relatives and mom and dad - tell them for once you miss them and how much you love them. Last and most important of all- get closer to God (that includes the atheist).

What else needs to be done?
Besides dressing the wound, one needs analgesics for the pain:
Any of the regular analgesics like ibuprofen, paracetamol, diclofenac sodium etc can be helpful depending on your pain tolerance.

You should elevate your hand as much as possible- this will help to reduce the edema (swelling that results with all burn wounds). You could use a pillow while sleeping -under the hand :) or use a sling to keep the hand elevated while awake.

Encourage your daughter to use her hand and let her play around – this will help in preventing any stiffness and will work as a sort of physiotherapy!!
So relax, and I wish your daughter a quick recovery.Will send you some flowers from mom's garden.


  1. Thanks for posting this article. A real blessing to those who are anxious and need help!

    Have a nice day! :)

  2. I would also like to say thank you - this has really explained the treatment I've undergone this week. I am feeling a bit dispondent today about it but I am hopeful it will heal as you say in a couple of weeks. Thank you for your professional advice.

  3. Thank you for you advice! Very positive and ensuring article from a professional! So often articles! So often doctors tend to scare the crap out of their patients!

  4. Thanks a lot for the posts Doctor. I got second degree superficial burn on face, hand and feet. They got healed by second week and this is my third week starting. Till now, I had used neosporin on my burns but last week my doctor prescribed me mometason cream to be applied once daily before going to bed. I dont want to use steroids unless that is the last resort. I tried to discuss this with my doctor but he felt offended and didnt even listen to my concerns fully. Kindly suggest me what should I use on my skin now. My skin is pink and in some parts a slight darker or closer to my skin pigmentation has started coming. But now it seems pigmentation of skin has stopped or...is it actually a very slow process?? Please suggest me something but steroids.

  5. this is very informative and explains about the surgery aftermath and in detail about the dressing during surgery

  6. Hello, my 3 up son got a scalding 2nd degree tonight and my husband took him into the ER (I was at home with other babie) and the Dr. wanted to sedate with ketamine, scrub and bandage. I can do that (not the ketamine) and felt we can do this and not rack up an ER bill and tomorrow we can go to Urgent Care or Peds on Monday. He sounded irritated, but my husband came home, we cleaned, treated and will take him in tomorrow or Monday. I just didn't want to do the ketamine for this. Was I wrong? He didn't like it but did pretty good. And there's more to go, so even if he was sedated, we'd still have battles. What do you think? Now I feel bad I didn't let the Butn Unit treat him like the Dr wanted.

  7. thanks,
    I guess different burns units have their protocol of opd management of burns and their dressings, so it is difficult to say whether you did the right thing or not.
    the point is that whatever the technique and protocols the burn wound has to be treated well and should heal without causing pain and suffering to the patient....

  8. dear friends...please don't spam...it difficult... regularly clearing the spam mail...

  9. Thank you this is a very good explanation of what we need to do.

  10. My husband has got superficial partialy thickness burn on face neck hands and shoulders 3days ago now he is hospitalised dressing and debridement done and pippracillin and tazobactum antibiotic started
    Kindly tell me how many days it will take to heal
    And normal skin colour will come or not
    Bcoz our doctor did not tell clearly please reply me as soon as possible

  11. Thanks uday
    Sorry to know your husband had a burn.
    Partial thickness burn take about 2 to 3 weeks depending on their depth.
    The less deep ones get their colour quickly in a few weeks
    The deeper partial thickness burns take time and sometimes may remain as white patches....
    It would have been nice if you had sent pic to asktheburnsurgeon@yahoo.com since it difficult to comment correctly on burns that are not seen.....

  12. Hi, My 12 year old went to visit family in Georgia. They went Jekel Island and stayed in the sun for for hours. She has spf55 on and got second degree burns all her back, stomach, arms but her shoulders are horrible. She has tons of blisters large and small. I took her to the er as soon as I picked her up. The er nurse practioner saw her, gave her some ibprofen. Gave mea small jar of sliverdene cream and said to keep ot covered. I am doing everything the nurse practioner said too but my daughter is in tears still. I ran out of tge cream. What should I do now?? Please help

  13. Thank you. 1m 24 and got a second degree burn on my right hand almost looks like the hand in the picture above. My skin was removed and the doctor only dressed it once. He stressed that I shouldn't dress it for it to heal early. He told me to use saline wash and apply MEBO cream 3 to 4 times a day with antibiotics. It's now almost one week and I still feel a little pain. Now part of my skin is pink and other light brown. Is the medication and the progress of healing ok or..? Thank you can't wait to her from you.

  14. Hi I burn my forarm while I was cooking hot oil splash through my hand .after two days top layer peals of the wound looks red 6cm I was so stress .how much time healing

  15. received 2nd degree superficial burn to both feet, from hot water running over feet in tub. blisters are large, and some broke already. this is exactly what I needed to see.... feet were washed, and dressed but left to dry out with instructions to puncture any large blisters to drain. thank you

  16. Hey. I got superficial burnt on the skin under my eyebrow after dying them ! It looks brown in some spots but one spot is exactly like an abrasion, i m really affraid of having scars there . Pharmacy gave me Mebo burn creme which i put today . Just want to know how long it gets better and if this cream is good for it ? And is there any chance of not having scars and healing properly ? I m stressed out as its so visible , thanks

  17. Hello, this is fastidious post I actually loved reading this.Skinology

  18. Hi, I just underwent laser hair removal for my underarms..but I think I got first degree burns.. initially it was red and inflamed and very painful. But now after 5 hours, its dark and a little less painful. I m taking oral analgesics which is making my pain tolerable. I am worried about the healing and scar formation.. and what should I do for a faster healing??

  19. Hi doc, my son has second degree superficial Burns on face and chest with hot soup bowl pulled by him from kitchen platform(higher to him). Burns on chest n shoulder are open since blister would hv got opened when shirt is removed. Face was red the night it happened. So we didn't pay attention. (No running water and other such precautions taken). But to our shock it started blistering overnite. Understand it is called scalding. Chest Burns are being treated with ssd and dressing alternate day. for Face it was told to clean with soap n put mupirocin.. my question is how many days the face Burns will take to cure... will it leave Any scars... and what to do for avoiding any scars..Pl advice

  20. I have been treating a heating pad burn for 3.5 weeks. It has made considerable progress with Manuka honey and a daily dressing change. No fever or swelling. What do you think? I would like to send a pic. Thank you.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Dermalmd Scar Serum is an amazing product I had a burn scar on my wrist and I was amazed at how quickly Dermalmd got rid of my scar, within 2 weeks.

  23. You need to get your appointment with the Dr. Mohan Skin Centre. We provide you best ever burn scar treatment in India with laser treatment at low costs.

  24. Hi really liked your blog. If you are looking for Specialist Cosmetic surgeon in India, then Drpreetipandya.com is the best place for you.

  25. Hey so I got a second degree burn and it just wont heal. Its been over a year now. It made a little bump sorta thing on my hand and everytime I ude dishwash sope it bursts open and form a hole in my hand. Then I stuggle over a month to get it to heal up again. I have used every product to heal burns. Every thing to get rid of infection I have also been on antibiotics and nothing works. What the hell do I do now?? Its frustrating and its leaving a really bad mark.