Yes, burns may swell. Swelling, also called edema, happens when fluids collect in an area of the body in response to injury, such as a burn. This can happen at the wound itself or in the tissue around the burn.
Second-degree burns are more severe than first-degree burns, as they damage deeper layers of tissue. Not surprisingly, swelling can be worse with second-degree burns than with first-degree burns. Second-degree burns may blister.
Third- and fourth-degree burns are more serious burns and require immediate medical attention. There may be swelling associated with these injuries, too, though other complications are more urgent, such as tissue death, nerve damage, risk of infection, and risk of hypothermia.
How to Treat Swelling Associated with a Burn
Always check with your doctor about burn injury treatment. All injuries are different, so discuss the best course of treatment for your burn.
If you have a first- or second-degree burn, you may relieve swelling by holding the burn under clean, cool (not cold) running water for 15 to 30 minutes, and taking anti-inflammatory medication, after checking with your doctor. Never use ice or ice water on a burn.
You may treat minor first-degree burns yourself without seeing a doctor (though you should check with your doctor before taking any medication or supplements), but second-degree burns require medical attention. If you have a second-degree burn, set up an appointment with your doctor shortly after the injury for an evaluation.
If swelling first appears or worsens in the days after the initial injury, it may be a symptom of an infection, in which case, you should get immediate medical attention, especially if you also have a fever, color changes in the burn wound, discharge from the wound, or other changes.