At Shriners Children’s our team of burn care specialists treats all types of burns, from superficial injuries to large burns requiring an intensive level of care.
A second degree burn, or partial thickness burn, destroys the top and middle layers of the skin. In most cases, a partial thickness second degree burn happens when skin touches a hot object or liquid, flames, chemicals or electricity. These burns are serious and painful, and they can leave parents desperate to find relief and expert care for their child. At Shriners Children’s our team of burn care specialists has been treating children with burn injuries for over 50 years. They will guide your family throughout the entirety of your child’s care, rehabilitation and recovery.
A second degree burn will appear as moist and oozing, with patchy pink and white coloring, often with blisters. Healing time varies depending on just how deep the burn goes into the skin layers. Proper assessment of any burn is very important. Burns are almost never uniform in depth. The thickness of a person’s skin varies so a burn may be a second degree burn in one area and a third degree burn in another. Very young children have thinner skin overall, so an injury that seems superficial could be more serious than first thought. Estimating the burn degree in the first few days after an injury is difficult because the depth actually changes (usually getting deeper). Deeper burns may require surgery. If the burn injuries leave a scar, your child will have access to the latest technologies in laser treatments to minimize the size and appearance of the scar.
Be reassured that if your child suffers a burn, the team at Shriners Children's is prepared to care for them immediately following the injury and over time. All the specialists your child may need will be available when you come for care. Your child’s surgeons, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and care managers understand the concerns of children and parents navigating this journey.
Your child's care team may recommend pressure garment therapy to help manage scars caused by the burn injury. Pressure garments can help enhance the skin's appearance and improve mobility.
At Shriners Children's our make-up clinic specialists teach your child how to conceal scars and use make-up to soften their appearance. This helps build self-confidence during the healing process.
With the most innovative treatments available, the team at Shriners Children's will care for your child throughout the duration of their recovery.
Shriners Children's Burn Care Accreditation
Three Shriners Children's locations providing burn care are accredited by the American Burn Association (ABA) and the American College of Surgeons (ACS) as verified pediatric burn centers.
We have a strong connection to and history with the ABA. All of the Shriners Children's burn care chiefs of staff at the above locations have been presidents of the ABA. These distinctions display the depth of the burn care support services we provide, as well as the vast amounts of research we lead on behalf of our patients and children around the world who’ve been burned.
Specific treatments and services may vary by location. Please contact a specific location for more information.
Types of Second Degree Burns
Depending on the depth of the wound, second degree burns can take anywhere from one week to several months to heal.
Superficial second degree burn wounds can take from 7-21 days to form the first layer of fragile new skin. This new skin can then take another one to two months to mature back to usual thickness. The color will often take several months and sometimes up to a year to return to the usual pigmentation. Superficial second degree burns do not typically form raised scars.
Deep second degree burn wounds can take four to six weeks before the wound can finally close. These wounds are at increased risk of forming raised scars.
Emergency Treatment of Second Degree Burns
The first step is to stop the burning process! If emergency assistance is required, call 911. Once the injury has been assessed in an emergency setting, seek care at a healthcare facility with pediatric burn care expertise available.
For all burns caused by skin touching a hot object, liquid, or flames:
- Stop the burning process
- Cool the injury with cool (not cold) water or apply a cool, wet compress
- Do not put ice on a burn
- Leave blisters intact
- Cover the burn wound with a clean, dry dressing
For all electrical burns:
- When an electrical injury happens it is critical that you do not touch the injured person if he or she still is in contact with the current source (you may also get injured)
- Turn off current
For all chemical burns:
- Flush the area with large quantities of cool water to dilute and remove the chemical from the skin
- If emergency transport is needed, EMS should flush eyes with water or saline during transport
Overview and Treatment of Second Degree or Partial Thickness Burns for Healthcare Providers
Second degree or partial thickness burns extend beneath the epidermis and into the dermis. Blisters form at the dermal-epidermal interface. The roof of the blister is dead epidermis. The dead epidermis is not durable and usually offers little protection for the underlying dermis. When the blister breaks, the fluid leaks out, and the dermis may dry up.
Superficial partial thickness burns extend only through the first half or so of the dermis (papillary dermis) and will generally heal within 10-14 days. These wounds (beneath the blister) are usually pink, moist, and painful and heal with minimal or no scarring or functional impairment. In patients with dark skin, there may be a temporary or permanent loss of skin pigmentation after healing.
Treatment: Superficial partial thickness burns should heal with proper wound care in 7 to 14 days Once the wound is cleansed, an antibiotic ointment is applied and secured with a dressing. In some cases silver impregnated dressings are used that stay on for longer (approx. 7 days) without antibiotic ointment. Normal activity should continue during the healing process to maintain full range of motion.
Deep partial thickness burns may also have blisters, but the underlying tissue may be mottled or have yellow or white eschar with poor blanching. They may have decreased sensation in the deepest areas. Often they are hard to distinguish from third degree burns. Deep partial thickness burns heal in three to eight weeks if they do not become infected. When they heal without specialized care, there is likely to be severe scarring and a great risk for functional impairment. A skin graft for deep partial thickness burns can minimize this.
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