University of Missouri Homepage
Print    Email
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+) font size
George David Peak Memorial Burn Care Center
Camping/Picnicking Safety
Candle Safety
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Fireworks Safety
Heat-related Conditions
Hotel Fire Safety
Motor Vehicle Burn Safety
Motorcycles and All-terrain Vehicles
Safe Charcoal Grilling
Safety and Prevention at Home
Summertime Safety
Sun Safety
Safety and Prevention

Simply put, a burn is damage to the skin and underlying tissue caused by heat, chemicals or electricity. Burns damage or destroy one or more layers of the skin. Deeper burns may even involve damage to fat, muscle or bone.

The temperature and length of time to which the skin is exposed to the burning substance determine the depth of injury. Minor burns require little or no medical treatment, but severe ones can be life-threatening or even fatal. Medical professionals classify burn injuries according to degrees. Partial thickness injuries to the skin include first and second degree burns; full thickness injuries encompass third degree and deeper burns.

Type of Burn


First-Degree (Superficial) Burn

  • Causes: sunburn, minor scalds
  • Generally heals in 3-5 days with no scarring
  • Minor damage to the skin, painful
  • Color - pink to red
  • Skin is dry without blisters

Second-Degree (Partial Thickness) Burn

  • Damages, but does not destroy top two layers of skin
  • Generally heals in 10-21 days
  • May not require skin graft*
  • Skin is moist, wet and weepy
  • Blisters are present
  • Color - bright pink to cherry red
  • Lots of edema (swelling)
  • Very painful

Third-Degree (Full Thickness) Burn

  • Destroys all layers of the skin
  • May involve fat, muscle and bone
  • Will often require skin graft for healing
  • Skin may be very bright red or dry and leathery, charred, waxy white, tan or brown
  • Charred veins may be visible
  • Area is insensate - the person is unable to feel touch in areas where the injury reaches full thickness

Human Resources Giving Disclaimer Notice of Privacy Practices Web Communications Social Media Site Index
Mizzou University of Missouri University of Missouri System