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.