Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Burns Treatment

The treatment for burns depends upon the location, severity, and cause. Minor burns require careful wound care, dressings that protect the injured skin, and pain medication. Second degree burns cause blisters, which should not be opened.

Serious burns to the eyes, genitals, hand, feet, or face, as well as any burns that cover a large area, usually require treatment at a burn center. Third degree burns and inhalation burns should also be treated at a burn center. A burn center is specially equipped to meet the needs of severely burned patients. Treatment for severe burns includes admission to the hospital for special wound care, intravenous fluids, and narcotic pain medications. Treatment for third degree burns may include skin grafts. Those with burns that cause muscle damage, nerve damage, or severe scarring may require extended time in a rehabilitation center for physical therapy.

Treatment for burns includes:


For more information:

Burns First Degree

Treatment for first degree burns may include:

Burns Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of burns.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
    • Is surgery an option for me?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • Do I need a special exercise program?
  • Will I need physical therapy?
  • Will I need occupational therapy?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk for having this injury again?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Burns Second Degree

Treatment for second degree burns may include:

  • Cold compresses
  • Remove rings and piercings.
  • Remove bracelets and watches.

Further treatment may include:

Second degree burns that may require hospitalization include:
  • Burns greater than 15 percent of the total body surface area
  • Burns in the young or elderly
  • Burns to the face
  • Burns to the feet
  • Burns to the genitals
  • Burns to the hands

Burns Serious Burns

Serious burns are more likely to require treatment in a burn unit.

Serious burns include:

Burns Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat burns:

Burns Tetanus Vaccine

Second degree and third degree burns may require treatment to prevent tetanus. Most children born in the US have received three tetanus shots (boosters) in the past, because these boosters are part of the usual vaccination schedule. Additional tetanus boosters are given every 10 years.

Those who require treatment to prevent tetanus include:


Treatment Options

Tetanus Vaccine and TIG Recommendations
HistoryClean, Minor WoundOther Wounds
< 3 boostersgive Tdgive Td + TIG
3 boosterspossible Tdpossible Td

Clean and minor wounds may need a booster if it has been more than 10 years since the last tetanus vaccine. Other wounds may need a booster if it has been more than 5 years since last tetanus vaccine.

Burns Third Degree

All third degree burns require hospitalization.

Treatment for third degree burns includes:

Continue to Burns Home Care

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Burns References
  1. Allison K, Porter K. Consensus on the prehospital approach to burns patient management. Emerg Med J. 2004 Jan;21(1):112-4. [14734397]
  2. Drago DA. Kitchen scalds and thermal burns in children five years and younger. Pediatrics. 2005 Jan;115(1):10-6. [15629975]
  3. Phillips BJ, Kassir A, Anderson B, Schiller WR. Recreational-outdoor burns: the impact and severity--a retrospective review of 107 patients. Burns. 1998 Sep;24(6):559-61. [9776095]
  4. Smith MA, Munster AM, Spence RJ. Burns of the hand and upper limb--a review. Burns. 1998 Sep;24(6):493-505. [9776087]
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