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If it's not clear what level of care is needed, try to judge the extent of tissue damage, based on the following burn categories:

1st-degree burn

A first-degree burn is the least serious type, involving only the outer layer of skin. It may cause:

You can usually treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn. If it involves much of the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint, seek emergency medical attention.

2nd-degree burn


A second-degree burn is more serious. It may cause:

If the second-degree burn is no larger than 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) in diameter, treat it as a minor burn. If the burned area is larger or covers the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint, treat it as a major burn and get medical help immediately.

3rd-degree burns

The most serious burns involve all layers of the skin and underlying fat. Muscle and even bone may be affected. Burned areas may be charred black or white. The person may experience: