You can treat some small first-degree burns at home, but many burns require professional medical attention. We recommend that you see a doctor for every burn, regardless of how serious you believe it is.
When does a burn need medical attention?
The following are situations in which your burn needs medical attention:
If your burn has blisters, you have a second-degree burn, not a first-degree burn. Because a second-degree burn damages the second layer of skin and has a higher risk of infection, you need to have a doctor evaluate your burn. If your burn is large, go an urgent care facility or ER. Otherwise, set up an appointment with your doctor.
Third-degree burns go beyond the second layer of skin and damage the fatty layer beneath. All third-degree burns need immediate medical attention. Call 9-1-1.
In fourth-degree burns, the damage can penetrate muscle and bone. A large number of these catastrophic burns are fatal. Immediate medical attention is necessary. Call 9-1-1 immediately.
Note: You need immediate medical attention if your burn causes no pain. In most cases, this means that you have sustained nerve damage from a third- or fourth-degree burn.
Burns on a Child
Because a child is still developing, burns on children can be more problematic than on an adult. Damaged skin can impede proper growth if not addressed appropriately. It is essential that the child receive professional medical care at a hospital or burn center from the beginning to ensure the best possible outcome.
All chemical burns should receive immediate medical attention. This is especially true if the chemical was a strong acid or alkali as these can be especially damaging. Call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room.
All electrical burns should receive immediate professional medical attention, not just for the burn, but also for the possibility of complications associated with the electrical contact with the body. Contact with sufficient electrical current to cause a burn can also cause cardiac arrest, cardiac arrhythmia, or damage to organs. Call 9-1-1 or visit the emergency room.
Facial burns should receive professional medical attention regardless of severity. Doctors can properly treat the burn and help prevent scarring and disfigurement. Visit the ER.
If you have a large burn more than two inches wide – even a superficial burn without blisters – you should get medical attention. Large burns come with more complications than smaller burns. You risk going into shock or developing hypothermia or an infection. Visit the emergency room for large burns.
Burns on the Hands or Feet
Burns on the hands or feet can cause dramatic loss of function and mobility, both in the short-term while they are healing and in the long-term if they do not heal correctly. For this reason, all burns — even minor ones — to the hands and feet need medical attention. Visit the ER.
Burns in the Groin Area
Burns in the groin area need medical attention. In addition to being painful, burns in this area can result in loss of function. Visit an emergency room for a burn to the groin area.
In some cases, a burn you thought was relatively minor will develop blisters, become more painful, or change color. Visit the ER if your symptoms worsen.
Signs of Infection
If any of the following are present in your burn, you may have an infection:
- Your burn is bright red or hot to touch after the initial heat on the skin surface dissipated.
- You have a fever.
- Your burn is oozing or pus is visible.
- Your burn becomes more painful.
- There are red streaks emanating from the burn.
- Your lymph nodes are swollen.
For any of these signs or symptoms, get immediate medical attention at the ER. Infections in burns can lead to sepsis, which can cause organ failure or death.
If you experience the following symptoms, go to the ER or call 9-1-1 right away:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Trouble breathing
Underlying Medical Condition
If you have a significant underlying medical condition, inform your doctor of your burn injury or go an urgent care facility. Depending on your medical condition, your body might react differently to a burn than a healthy person. In case of emergency, visit the ER.
How will I pay for the medical attention my burns need?
Medical treatment for burns is not cheap. If you suffered a burn because of another party’s negligence, you may have a claim for injury compensation. We can help you connect with a lawyer who will evaluate your claim. Call our lawyer referral specialists today at 844-549-8774.