Burns may result due to fire, contact with hot objects and corrosive substances, electrocution, radiated heat, frozen surfaces, friction or radiation. Scalds are caused by sources of wet heat like steam or hot water.

Types of Burns

First degree Burns

First degree burns damage the outer layer of skin (epidermis).


  • Redness
  • Mild pain
  • Swelling

First Aid

  • Immediately hold the affected part under running cold water (or dip in cold water) for about 10 mins. This will ease out the pain.
  • Cover the area with a sterile, dry gauze dressing for protection.
  • Consult a doctor, if required he may administer :
    • An oral or Injectable painkiller.
    • An anti tetanus vaccine injection.
    • Start Normal saline infusion if the area of burn is more than 10% of body surface.

Guide to calculate the body surface

Second Degree Burns

Second degree burns damage not only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) but also the underlying inner layers of the skin (mainly the dermis).


  • Blisters
  • Rough, red skin
  • Swelling
  • Extreme pain

First Aid

  • Immerse in cold water or apply cold wet cloths on the affected area.
  • Gently blot the area dry.¬†Do not rub. Rubbing may break the blister, making it prone to infections.
  • Cover wound with dry, sterile bandage.
  • If burn is located on arm or leg, keep limb elevated as much as possible.
  • Consult a doctor, if required he may administer :
    • An oral or Injectable painkiller.
    • An anti tetanus vaccine injection.
    • Start Normal saline infusion if the area of burn is more than 10% of body surface;
    • Take the victim to a doctor or hospital quickly.

Second degree burns should heal within a few weeks.

Third Degree Burns

Third degree burns affect the full thickness of the skin extending to the hypodermis. Such burns damage the nerves, muscles and other tissues and may lead to numbness in the affected area.


  • Pale, charred, waxy appearance of the skin.
  • Numbness in the affected area.

First Aid

  • The first objective is to halt the burning process which can be done by dousing the victim with water or wrapping the victim in a blanket. In case water or a blanket is not readily available the victim must be rolled on the floor to smother the flames.
  • Check airway, breathing and pulse and in case either is absent start CPR.
  • Cover the burnt area with a sterile burn sheet if available, else plastic kitchen film can be used for wrapping the burnt area (In case you are using plastic kitchen film remove the first few sheets and use the underlying sheets to lower the chances of infections). Shift the patient to the hospital as soon as possible.
  • If burns are on arms or legs, keep the limbs elevated above the level of the heart.
  • If victim has burns on face, check frequently to make sure he is not having difficulty breathing. Burns in this area can cause rapid swelling and inflammation of the air passages and there is a serious risk of suffocation. This requires specialized medical aid and the patient needs to be rushed to the emergency department of a hospital immediately.

Special Precautions

  • During severe burns there are chances of substantial blood loss which can lead to shock and hypothermia. Do not use very cold water or over cool the victim as there is a risk of the body temperature dropping dangerously low (hypothermia).
  • In case of electrical burns, do not use water to avoid further chances of short circuit or electrocution.
  • Do not use adhesive dressings on the affected area.
  • Ointments, creams and fats should not be applied on the injury, unless a specific medication has been advised by the doctor.
  • Do not break blisters. Blisters are sterile and breaking them makes them prone to infections.
  • If any object or clothing is sticking to the burn do not try to remove it as it may lead to further injury and infections.

Chemical Burns

Chemical burns may result due to contact with corrosive chemicals which can be industrial chemicals or certain corrosive domestic agents. Such injuries always require proper medical attention.


  • Intense, stinging pain.
  • Initially there may not be any visible marks of injury but very soon there may be redness, staining followed by blistering and peeling.
  • Suffocation and choking due to chemical fumes.

Certain chemicals may produce not only localized effects but whole body reactions characterized by :

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Bright red or bluish skin and lips.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Rashes and blisters
  • Itching, nausea, vomiting or any other allergic reactions.

First Aid :

Flush the affected area with plenty of water to disperse the chemical and reduce pain. You may need to flush for as long as 20 mins to completely remove the chemicals.



  • Do not use water at high pressure to avoid injury to the skin which may become very tender due to the chemical effect.
  • Be careful while providing first aid to a victim of chemical burn to avoid any injury to yourself.
  • Do not use any creams, ointments, lotions on the burnt area unless advised by the doctor.
  • Remove clothing on or near the burn area. Never pull clothing over the head with a chemical burn, if required cut the clothing.
  • Apply a clean dressing to the area.
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible.

Electrical Burns

Electrical burns result due to the passage of electricity from the body. Most of the visible damage is found at the point of entry and the point of exit of the electric current but there are high chances of internal damage.


  • Burns with swelling, scorching and charring at the points of entry and exit.
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Signs of shock like a rapid pulse, pale grey skin.

First Aid :

Before getting close to the victim make sure that the current has been switched off and isolated.

  • An electric shock can cause cardiac arrest, if the victim is unconscious immediately open up the airway, check breathing and pulse and if necessary start CPR.
  • If it is safe to use water (make sure there is no chance of electrocution) flush the site of injury with water.
  • Cover the affected area with sterile burns sheet, or a sterile bandage. Start the first aid for shock.
  • Rush the victim to the hospital immediately.