3rd Degree Burn Healing Stages

The treatment for third-degree burns is a four stage process. The stages begin with the initial treatment, followed by steps to eliminate the chance for infections to set in. The third and fourth stages deal with cosmetic healing, such as ensuring that the skin heals properly and preventing scarring when possible. None of these stages can be done without the aid of a medical professional, and most physicians will recommend that the person with third-degree burns go to a burn center in certain circumstances in order to maximize the effectiveness of the four stages of treatments.

  1. Surgery may be necessary for very deep second degree burns or those that are slow to heal. Third-degree and more severe burns (also called full thickness burns) damage both layers of the skin and may also damage the underlying bones, muscles, and tendons. Injured skin may turn white, black, and/or gray. It may feel dry and leathery.
  2. Unlike a first- or second-degree burn that can heal in as little as a few weeks, a third-degree burn can require months of follow-up treatment. Below, we detail the treatment of 3rd degree burns as well as how to cover your burn and prevent scarring and infection. How do medical professionals treat third-degree burns?

The first stage in the treatment for third-degree burns begins with the initial actions taken. An evaluation needs to be made to assess the severity of the burns, and if the airway has been restricted, an air tube will be inserted to ensure proper oxygen levels within the body. Intravenous lines will then be attached to offer proper hydration, which is the most common problem associated with these types of burns. Smaller burns can be treated with medications and ointments, while larger scale burns may require more aggressive measures, such as surgery. Burns that cover over 5% of the body will have to be dealt with in specialized burn treatment centers, but smaller burns can be treated effectively by any licensed medical provider.

The second stage of treatment involves eliminating the risk for infections, which is the leading cause of death from severe burns throughout the world. Cleaning the afflicted area is the first step. Since the burn will cause a decrease in blood flow to the tissue, the area will have to be cleaned and the sterile dressings replaced on a regular basis around the clock. Antibiotics will be pumped through the body by using intravenous lines or ointments, depending upon the severity of the burn, as well as the constant flow of hydrating liquids. Movement will also be restricted, which aids in the healing process. This is a vital stage in the treatment, as infected third-degree burns can cause serious medical complications, as well as death in some cases.

3rd Degree Burn Healing Stages

The burn rehabilitation program. Burn rehabilitation begins during the acute treatment phase and may last days to months to years, depending on the extent of the burn. Rehabilitation is designed to meet each patient's specific needs; therefore, each program is different.

Proper skin healing is the third step of the process, but is the first step when it comes to cosmetic treatments. This treatment for third-degree burns will commence as soon as the major risks have been stabilized and the blood flow has returned. This process can involve skin grafts, which is skin taken from another area of the body and surgically attached to the afflicted area. If it is not possible to obtain enough skin from the patient, then donor skin will be used, or even compatible skins from animals or artificial production. The last two options are only temporary and will have to be removed. However, the idea of a skin graft is to place a layer of skin over the area so that the skin can heal on its own.

3rd Degree Burn Healing Stages Symptoms

The final step in the treatment for third-degree burns is to reduce the amount of scarring. Most third-degree burn victims will have some scarring, but to reduce the amount and size it is important that wounds be sealed quickly and that the first and second stages are completed as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Using proper salves on the burns will increase healing while decreasing scaring as long as it is applied correctly and in a timely fashion. The final aspect of preventing excessive scarring is when skin grafts are done, and how expertly they are accomplished. A good surgeon can make the difference between large scarring and small scars that are not easily noticeable.

3rd Degree Burn Healing Stages

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3rd Degree Burn Healing Stages

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on March 4, 2021.

  • Care Notes
  • Aftercare Instructions

First Degree Burn Healing Stages


A second-degree burn is also called a partial-thickness burn. A second-degree burn occurs when the first layer and some of the second layer of skin are burned. A superficial second-degree burn usually heals within 2 to 3 weeks with some scarring. A deep second-degree burn can take longer to heal. A second-degree burn can also get worse after a few days and become a third-degree burn.


Return to the emergency department if:

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

Call your doctor or burn specialist if:

  • 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.


  • Medicines may be given 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.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Burn care:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry your hands with a clean towel or 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. You may cause a skin infection.
  • Apply cream or ointment to the burn with a cotton swab. Place a nonstick bandage over your burn.
  • 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.


  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink extra liquid to help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Go to physical therapy, if directed. Your muscles and joints may not work well after a second-degree burn. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Prevent second-degree burns:

  • 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.

Follow up with your doctor or burn specialist as directed:

You may need to return to have your wound checked and your bandage changed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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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2nd Degree Burns Healing Stages

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