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What is a Third-Degree Burn?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A third-degree burn is a severe injury to the skin as a result of heating. Burns to human flesh are measured by the depth to which the burn extends; first-degree burns are fairly superficial and include sunburns; second-degree burns are more severe and can cause blistering and other damage to the tissue; a third-degree burn are very severe and lead to blistering and charring that reaches through the most superficial layers of skin to the soft tissue beneath. Medical treatment will be necessary to address a third-degree burn, and skin grafts and amputations may be necessary for the most severe.

The most severe burns are classified as fourth-degree burns, and these are extremely life threatening. A third-degree burn can also be very dangerous, especially if the burn becomes infected or covers a large part of the body. Skin can slough off when it incurs a third-degree burn, and infection is extremely likely. Like fourth degree burns, a third-degree burn can impair regular movement, and if the burn covers a significant part of the body, amputations may be necessary to save the victim's life. Third and fourth degree burns extend deep beyond the superficial layer of skin into the dermis and subcutaneous layers beneath.

While first and second degree burns can be quite painful, third and fourth degree burns are often painless after the initial burn takes place. The nerves that service the areas of the body that are burned are essentially damaged to the point that sensation is lost completely; this may sound reassuring, but such nerve damage can lead to subsequent problems that may become quite serious. Treatments for third and fourth degree burns can also be extremely painful and long-lasting, especially amputations and skin grafts. The skin that has been burned will be scarred permanently, even after skin grafts are completed.

A third-degree burn is extremely dangerous for anyone who is affected by one, but young children and the elderly are even more at risk for serious complications and death. These two age groups are very susceptible to infections, so special care must be taken to address the wound properly and quickly. People with existing medical conditions are also more at risk for complications and death, as are people who are burned on the majority or on a large part of the body. The longer the burns are left untreated, the greater the likelihood becomes that complications will arise.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari , Former Writer
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By stoneMason — On Oct 02, 2013

@donasmrs-- At hospitals, 3rd and 4th degree burns are treated with bandages that have ionized silver and water gel. Ionized silver protects from infections and water gel keeps the burn hydrated.

By donasmrs — On Oct 01, 2013

@ysmina-- That's horrible! Did you apply antibiotic ointment to it? Because second and third degree burns are prone to infections. You did the right thing by covering it up. You could have used the special burn bandages from the pharmacy. Those protect from infection and also help serious burns heal faster. But the bandage should be changed every day.

It is recommended that first degree burns remain open because exposure to air helps first degree burns heal faster. But second and third degree burns are different because the flesh is exposed and the blisters make it easy for bacteria to enter. It's better to cover third degree burns with clean bandages until it scabs. But the bandage shouldn't be made of the type of cloth that sticks to skin tissue because it can cause bleeding while being removed.

I had a third degree burn on my arm and I used bandages made for burns until it healed.

By ysmina — On Oct 01, 2013

I'm not exactly sure what degree of burn I had, but I'm sure that it was at least a 2nd degree burn and most probably a 3rd degree because the burn blistered and turned into a wound. I got the burn while deep frying food at a restaurant. When I put the frozen chicken pieces into the deep fryer, oil splashed out and landed on my arm.

I didn't realize how serious it was until after a half hour. It became very painful. Over the next few days, the burned skin came off, blistered and turned into a red wound. I was in pain for weeks and it took more than a month for it to scab over. The sad part was that I never got proper treatment for it because I didn't have health insurance. My employer could care less and I kept working with a huge bandage on my arm.

Dan Cavallari

Dan Cavallari

Former Writer

Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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