Third Degree Sunburn

Everyone who has suffered a sunburn knows that sometimes your skin will feel a little tender, and other times it feels as though your skin is going to melt off and your brain will stop functioning. This is because not all sunburns are created equally. Some can be treated at home with minimal effort, while others can cause serious damage which may require medical attention. The severity of a sunburn is an important thing to consider when discerning how to best treat it and heal the skin.

3rd Degree Sunburn – Third Degree Sunburns It is the most serious type of sunburn. It typically affects all layers of skin and can be life threatening of they extend over a large area of skin. It is the most severe, but it is sometimes least painful owing to the destruction of nerves that is normally associated with it. Third – Degree Burns A third – degree burn is the most serious type of burn and requires a call to 911 and immediate medical treatment. This type of burn involves all layers of skin and underlying fat, sometimes even affecting muscle and bone. Someone suffering a third – degree burn needs to go to the hospital right away. Jul 29, 2019 A MUM is warning others of the dangers of shunning sunscreen after her son suffered third degree burns in the heatwave. Nicola Williams told her son Nathan Herbert to take a bottle of factor 50.

First Degree Sunburn

A first degree sunburn is what most people commonly associate with sunburns. Redness, tenderness, and mild pain are all symptoms of a first degree sunburn. People with fair skin and the very young or very old are more susceptible to any type of burn and should be careful when spending prolonged amount of time in the sun. After exposure to the sun, skin begins to redistribute melanin which are the molecules which control the skin’s pigmentation. For those with fair skin, there is little melanin to redistribute, so there is no immediate darkening of the skin to protect it. This is one of the reasons people with fair skin tend not to notice the damage being inflicted on their skin until hours after sun exposure. Skin will then inflame and feel painful to the touch.

Treatment for First Degree Sunburn

These burns will typically heal themselves within two to five days. However, if you want to expedite the process there are plenty of options. Firstly, stay out of the sun at all costs. If you must go outside, cover as much of the sunburn as possible with lightweight clothing and plenty of broad-spectrum sunscreen. You can take anti-inflammatories and treat your skin with aloe vera gel to ease the pain and quicken your recovery.

Second Degree Sunburn

Second degree sunburns damage skin past the first layer. They are usually characterized by vibrant redness, blistering, swelling, and more severe pain with the possibility of dehydration or nausea. The blisters usually appear in small clusters which will eventually break. Second degree sunburns typically occur in people who have fallen asleep in the sun or those who would have otherwise left the sun’s rays but had no other option. These burns will not heal within the two to five day time frame of first degree burns and may require medical attention.

Third degree sunburn ears

Treatment for Second Degree Sunburn

Start at home with cool (but not ice cold) compresses or a cool shower. At-home treatment is similar to that of a first degree burn. If you experience any severe dehydration or nausea, it may be best to consult a physician. A doctor should also be contacted if any blisters begin popping because the open wound on damaged skin can lead to infection quickly. They may prescribe a topical treatment to be applied to the burn and medication for the pain, and, if necessary, they may drain the fluid from any blisters and wrap them with a light gauze to protect from infection.

Third degree sunburn pictures

Third Degree Sunburn

Third Degree Sunburn

Although rare, third degree sunburns can happen and anyone suffering from a third degree sunburn should seen immediate medical attention. Skin will present a red to purplish discoloration, and large blisters will form. Those suffering third degree sunburns will also experience chills, a mild fever, and severe nausea, headaches, and dehydration.

Treatment for Third Degree Sunburn

For a sunburn this severe, a doctor may set up an IV to ensure the patient receives the fluid they need. They may also remove the fluid from blisters and treat them similarly to a second degree sunburn to prevent the onset of infection. Medicine will be administered for pain at the discretion of the doctor to make sure a patient with severe burns does not go into shock. Sunburns of this severity should never be treated at home. Some may think their pain is not intolerable after a severe burn, but when in doubt always go to the hospital. They may feel so calm because their nerves have been damaged and are numb to the intense pain and damage caused. Because of the complexity of treating, changing dressings, and other various components, treating severe burns should always be left to professionals.

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Medically reviewed by Last updated on March 4, 2021.

  • Care Notes
  • Overview



What is a third-degree burn?

A third-degree burn is also called a full thickness burn. A third-degree burn occurs when all 3 layers of your skin are burned. Your skin may be white, black, brown, or leathery. This type of burn injury is often painless because the nerves have been damaged. Bones and muscles may also be damaged. A third-degree burn is the most serious type of burn.

What causes a third-degree burn?

Third Degree Sunburn Symptoms

  • Direct exposure to heat for a long time, such as contact with a hot object, flame, or tar
  • Harsh chemicals, such as cleaning products, car battery acid, gasoline, or cement
  • A damaged electrical cord or outlet
  • Lightning
  • Hot water or steam

How is a third-degree burn diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your burn. Tell him or her about your symptoms. He or she will examine your burn to determine how severe it is. Laser scanners may be used to check the blood flow in your skin.

How is a third-degree burn treated?

  • Medicines may be used to decrease pain, prevent infection, or help your burn heal. They may be given as a pill or as an ointment applied to your skin.
  • Surgery may remove damaged tissue, replace or cover lost skin, or relieve pressure and improve blood flow. Surgery can help prevent infection, decrease inflammation, and improve healing. Surgery can also improve the appearance of your skin and reduce scarring.

How do I care for my third-degree burn?

Second Degree Sunburn Treatment

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry your hands with a clean towel or a paper towel.

  • Remove old bandages. You may need to soak the bandage in water before you remove it so it will not stick to your wound.
  • Gently clean the burned area daily with mild soap and water. Pat the area dry. Look for any swelling or redness around the burn. Do not break closed blisters, because this increases the risk for infection.
  • Apply cream or ointment to the burn with a cotton swab. Place a nonstick bandage over your burn. The bandage will help protect the skin from infection.
  • Wrap a layer of gauze around the bandage to hold it in place. The wrap should be snug but not tight. It is too tight if you feel tingling or lose feeling in that area.
  • Apply gentle pressure for a few minutes if bleeding occurs.
  • Elevate your burned arm or leg above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your burned arm or leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Why may I need physical therapy?

Your muscles and joints may not work well after a third-degree burn. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

How can I prevent a third-degree burn?

Third Degree Sunburn Images

  • Do not leave cups, mugs, or bowls containing hot liquids at the edge of a table. Keep pot handles turned away from the stove front.
  • Do not leave a lit cigarette. Make sure it is no longer lit. Then dispose of it safely.
  • Store dangerous items out of the reach of children. Store cigarette lighters, matches, and chemicals where children cannot reach them. Use child safety latches on the door of the safe storage area.

  • Keep your water heater setting to low or medium (90°F to 120°F, or 32°C to 48°C).
  • Wear sunscreen that has a sun protectant factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. The sunscreen should also have ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. Follow the directions on the label when you use sunscreen. Put on more sunscreen if you are in the sun for more than an hour. Reapply sunscreen often if you go swimming or are sweating.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a fast heartbeat or breathing.
  • You are not urinating.

Degrees Of Sunburn Pictures

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have increased redness, numbness, or swelling in the burn area.
  • Your wound or bandage is leaking pus and has a bad smell.
  • Your pain does not get better, or gets worse, even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have a dry mouth or eyes.
  • You are overly thirsty or tired.
  • You have dark yellow urine or urinate less than usual.
  • You have a headache or feel dizzy.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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