Burn injuries are categorized into three degrees depending on the depth of the burn to the layers of the skin.
- A first degree burn damages the epidermis only
- A second degree burn penetrates to the dermis layer
- A third degree burn damages the hypodermis
Ironically, the less deep the burn is, the more painful it tends to be, so the pain levels are not indicative of the seriousness of the damage to the skin.
Burns near the nose and mouth or within the airways are most dangerous because of swelling, which can constrict the flow of oxygen to the lungs.
If a patient is suffering from a third degree burn, you must alert emergency responders immediately, as home treatments will not be effective. The patient will certainly experience a fluid imbalance as the burn draws electrolytes away from the blood, causing swelling.
Second-degree burn victims should also seek medical attention as soon as possible.
With a first-degree burn, first hold the burned area under running tap water for as long as 15 to 20 minutes—longer is even better. Do not apply ice; it causes blisters, as ice is a vassal constrictor, decreasing blood flow. Other substances can also aggravate the burn: folk remedies such as toothpaste and aloe vera cause blisters and also cause a burning effect in themselves. You may apply ointment to a first-degree burn after the pain is relieved (such as silvirin).