Difference Between First, Second, and Third-Degree Burns (With Table)

A burn means injuries caused to skin by dry heat like fire and wet heat like the stream, hot liquids, sun, electricity, radiation, etc. Which leads to the formation of scars.  Burn can be categorized into three types- first-degree burn, second-degree burn, and third-degree burn.

First vs Second vs Third-Degree Burn

The main difference between first, second, and third-degree burns is first-degree burn damages the epidermis layer of the skin whereas a second-degree burn damages the dermal layer in the skin which leads a person to feel numbness in that area. And third-degree burn damages the innermost layer of the skin.

First-degree burns damage only the epidermis layer of the skin. It is not that severe and takes mostly one week or less than a week to heal. Long-term tissue damage is rare with the first-degree burn. This doesn’t usually don’t get infected or leaves scars.

Second-degree burns are more serious than first-degree burns. It damages the outer most layer and the layer below the epidermis called dermis. It can be very irritating to the skin and might take several days or weeks to heal fully. Second-degree burns have chances of getting infection to the skin.

A third-degree burn is a burn that destroys the deepest layer of the skin. It is too severe that sometimes the person feels numbness in that area. It takes much time to heal. It doesn’t produce any blister but it will look dark red and leathery. It is not painful as it destroys the deep layer of the skin and pain-sensing nerves. This burn needs medical attention much for heal.

Comparison Table between First, Second, and Third-Degree Burns.

Parameters of
First-degree BurnsSecond-degree Burns.Third-degree burn
Burn recovery time.It usually takes three days or a week to heal properlyIt takes usually a week and sometimes leaves scars.        It usually takes a month or sometimes years to heal.
DamageThe outer layer of the skin.The outer layer and the layer beneath the skin.The deepest layer of the skin.
CausedSunburn, scalds, electricity, etc.Sun, stoves, exposure to fire, in contact with boiling water.Flames, electricity, chemicals like acid, contact with extremely hot objects.
Preventing scars formationHome remedies are sufficient.Rinse the burn area in cool water. Applying the area with ointment.        Stretch the burnt area every day with regular prescribed medicine.
TreatmentUsually it can be treated at home. An ointment or cover it with sterile, non-stick gauze to protect the portion.        Surgery.
Skin graft
Tetanus shot

 What is a First-degree Burn?

A type of burn that damages the outer layer of the skin. The burn is so mild that it can be cured on its own; they usually don’t require medical treatment. However, some burns can be severe and might need medical attention.

They are not that severe which doesn’t lead to scar formation or any infection. It can be treated with skincare cosmetics like aloe Vera or an antibiotic cream such as acetaminophen.

The symptoms of first-degree burn are often changing in the color of the skin. Other symptoms may include-

  1. swelling.
  2. pain.
  3. dry skin.
  4. itching.

What is the Second-Degree Burn?

A type of burn that damages the outer most layer of the skin known as epidermis and the layer below epidermis of the skin called dermis. Second-degree burns are more painful and hurting. They are more serious than first-degree burns and might lead to infection. It takes much time to heal.

It can be too dangerous if it affects a large area of the body. It can cause severe infection. It should be treated with an antibiotic or medicine that is prescribed by the doctor.

Second-degree burn has the chance for serious complication and sometimes lead to the formation of scars.

The symptoms of second-degree burn are –

  1. Intense pain.
  2. A burn with an irregular pattern.
  3. Blisters.

What is a Third-Degree Burn?

A type of burn that damages the outer layer, the layer beneath the skin, and sometimes the innermost layer of the skin. They are more severe in comparison to a first and second-degree burn. These burns are a serious injury that needs medical treatment immediately. It is quite painful, in some cases, we might not feel the pain as it damages the nerve endings.

Third-degree burns are severe burns and have high chances of scar formation. Third-degree burns need intensive medical treatment.

Some points that we should keep in mind is-

  1. Getaway the person as soon as possible from that particular area.
  2. Check the person whether he is breathing or not.

Some common symptoms in third-degree burn are-

  1. Skin discoloration.
  2. Skin appearing dry or waxy.
  3. swelling

Main Differences Between First-Degree Burn, Second-Degree Burn, and Third-Degree burns.

  1. First-degree burns damage the outer most layer of the skin whereas second-degree burns damage the deeper layer of the skin known as dermis. And third-degree burn damages the innermost layer of the skin.
  2. The first degree can be treated by home remedies whereas the second-degree burn can be treated by an ointment. And third-degree burn needs medical treatment as soon as possible.
  3. First-degree burn doesn’t take much time to heal whereas second-degree burn takes more than a week to recover. And third-degree burn takes a month or a year to recover.
  4. The symptoms of first-degree burn are swelling, pain, and itching whereas symptoms of second-degree burn are intense pain, blister. And for the third degree, the symptoms change in color of the skin, swelling.
  5. Second-degree burns are painful compared to first degree but in the case of third-degree burns, it is most painful in compression to first and second-degree burns.


From the above discussion, we can conclude that burn can be severe and takes time for healing.

Small burn can be treated with some ointment or with some home remedies but in some cases where it is too severe might lead to some serious problem like surgery.


  1. https://europepmc.org/article/med/17565478
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1524-475X.2008.00414.x
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Saman-Firoozi/publication/345690299_Study_of_Third-Degree_Burn_Wounds_Debridement_and_Treatment_by_Actinidin_Enzyme_Immobilized_on_Electrospun_ChitosanPEO_Nanofibers_in_Rats/links/5faad9594585150781068947/Study-of-Third-Degree-Burn-Wounds-Debridement-and-Treatment-by-Actinidin-Enzyme-Immobilized-on-Electrospun-Chitosan-PEO-Nanofibers-in-Rats.pdf