Image recording: first, second and third degree

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Second degree burn with edema

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Blisters are the most common symptom of a second degree burn. Most symptoms of a second degree burn are similar to those of a first degree burn. However, second degree burns will also have:

  • Blisters
  • Severe pain
  • Peeling or when the top layer of skin falls off
  • Swelling
  • Watery fluid or oozing fluid

A second degree burn is considered serious if it could potentially lead to loss of function of the burned body part. When emergency care providers determine the severity of the burn, they look at the extent of the burned body.

Second-degree burns affecting the face, hands, feet, genitals, or large joints are considered serious and require immediate attention.

An inflamed second degree burn that affects the entire arm or leg can also put pressure on nerve cells and restrict blood flow to other parts of the body that are not even involved in the area of the burn. This is known as compartment syndrome.

At worst, compartment syndrome can lead to tissue death and the release of toxins that increase overall damage. If left untreated, it can lead to amputation or, worse, death.

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