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When Should I Seek Treatment for a Burn?

How to Tell if You Should Head to the ER for a Burn

Whether from getting too close to a campfire or an accident cooking, there are plenty of ways you could get a burn when you’re around an open flame. While some burns can be treated at home, severe-degree burns should be handled by a medical professional.

Here’s how to spot the difference:

What Level is My Burn?

First-Degree Burns

A first-degree burn only affects the outer layer of your skin. It causes pain, redness, and swelling. This type of wound can be treated at home by:

  • Cooling the burn.
  • Applying petroleum jelly.
  • Covering the wound with a bandage.

Second-Degree Burns

Our bodies are made up of many different layers of skin, and a second-degree burn affects the outer and underlying layers of skin. Also called partial thickness burns, this wound typically causes pain, redness, swelling, and blistering.

A second-degree burn is considered a minor burn if it is less than 2 to 3 inches wide. If the burn is more than 2 to 3 inches wide and is located on the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or over a major joint, it is considered a major burn.

Third-Degree Burns

Third-degree burns affect the deepest layers of skin. Also called full-thickness burns, these wounds typically have white or black burned skin, and may cause the affected area to become numb.

Fourth-Degree Burns

The most serious of the four degrees, fourth-degree burns not only go through all layers of the skin, but also through underlying deeper tissues, bones, and muscles. Typically, patients feel no sensation in the affected area because the nerve endings have been severed.

Emergency Symptoms of a Burn

Though you may know the different levels of a burn, you may not be able to tell what type of injury you have right away — and you can have more than one type of burn at a time. For example, a burn to your hand may not look serious but can lead to serious mobility issues later in life if treated improperly.

There are five main reasons you should seek emergency medical care following a burn:

  • The burn occurred to your face, eyes, ears, hands, feet, or genital area.
  • The burn is larger than the size of your palm.
  • If there are any signs of infection (liquid, foul odor, pain increases).
  • The burn appears worse over time.

Emergency Burn Care in Dallas

If you’re unsure, the best thing to do is to head to an emergency center for treatment — it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

At Advance ER, we have an urgent care/walk-in clinic that can provide same-day treatment for non-emergency conditions. Stop by our clinic for treatment or visit us online for more information.