10 Examples of Second Degree Burns

Don't Point that Potato at Me!

Partial thickness burn from an unloaded potato gun. (c) Shells

 An unloaded potato gun (meaning it was potatoless) gave this reader a partial thickness burn. The severity of a burn depends partly on the degree of the burn.

Otherwise known as 2nd degree, partial thickness burns can look drastically different from one another, depending on how deep the burn actually goes. As long as the injury does not completely destroy the entire main skin layer (dermis) and extend into the fatty tissue below, the burn is still considered partial thickness.

The story goes that this reader used hairspray as an explosive agent. If you've ever wondered whether hairspray could be dangerous, well...

Scalding Hot Water

Scalding hot water spilled onto this reader's hand, causing blisters consistent with 2nd degree burns. (c) Nordyke

This picture, submitted by a reader, shows a second degree burn from scalding hot water. The reader says she was carrying a pot of boiling water and one side of the pot slipped, spilling the water on her left hand.

Scalds are burns from hot liquids. They are almost never full thickness (3rd degree) burns, but they do blister quickly. Unfortunately, as this reader discovered, not all doctors are great at treating burns. It's easy to discount smaller second degree burns as not too bad. A doc in an office or a non-acute center, such as an urgent care, can easily misdiagnose the severity of these types of burns.

A visit to the urgent care got a bandage and some "clear looking cream" on her burn. By the time this reader made it to the ER, her hand was already showing signs of an infection.

Heat Pack Burn

Second degree burn from a reusable heat pack. (c) nise, a reader

A reusable hot/cold pack bought at a pharmacy caused this burn. A reader submitted this picture of a burn to the neck and says it came from a reusable chemical heat pack. The reader says the pack was put in the microwave for 10 seconds, even though the instructions say to heat it for 30 seconds.

There were never any blisters, which is common. Blisters indicate that the epidermis is completely damaged and is pulling away from the dermis. Sometimes, the epidermis is completely destroyed and is no longer present, which means there won't be blisters.

It's easy to get complacent when using over the counter medications and medical devices. It feels like a first aid tool sold on store shelves should be safe to use. This is a reminder that seemingly innocuous items can cause harm, even when used according to the instructions.

The next picture shows the burn after 5 weeks of healing.

Heat Pack 5 Weeks Later

Healing 2nd degree burn. (c) nise, reader

After sustaining a burn from a reusable heat pack (shown in the last picture), this reader treated the injury with lidocaine, which is used to numb the skin. This picture shows how the burn looks 5 weeks after the injury. It's healing nicely, but despite the lidocaine, the reader says it hurts substantially.

I guess the irony here is that the reader was using this product to reduce pain.

Exploding Wax

Hot wax under a faucet exploded, causing these burns. (c) cmoore, reader

The injuries sustained by our readers can be pretty horrific, especially when it's easy to see how it could happen to you. This reader submitted a picture of her hand after hot wax from a candle exploded and covered her hand.

Covered in blisters, this burn is most definitely a second degree. Burns of the hand are even worse, because the damaged tissues can lead to a loss of hand function.

Hot Iron Blister

Steam and hot water from an iron caused this large blister. (c) Cheryl H, reader

After burning herself with the steam and hot water from a household iron, this reader submitted a picture of the giant blister on her pinky finger.

Blisters form in second degree burns because the dermis (second and main layer of skin) has been damaged and begins to swell. The swelling causes fluid to build up between the dermis and the epidermis (top layer of skin).

As you'll see in the next picture, the epidermis doesn't always remain after a second degree burn.

Out of the Frying Pan

Hot Oil Burn
Hot oil dripped on this reader's leg while drinking vodka and cooking over an open campfire. (c) Sarah, reader

While cooking over a camp fire, this reader was pounding vodka (I might be overstating that just a little) and managed to drip a bit of screaming hot oil onto her knee. She submitted a picture of the ensuing second degree burn.

Notice that the top layer of skin (epidermis) is completely missing. In the last picture, a giant blister shows how the two layers can separate. In this case, the epidermis has either been destroyed or fell off. In the next picture, you'll see how the epidermis falls away after a burn in a process called sloughing (pronounced sluffing).


When the epidermis comes off in sheets, it's called "sloughing" and is basically the same as blisters breaking. (c) Shelley Saunders, reader

Once the blisters have popped (or in the case of a giant blister, more like torn) the epidermis begins to fall away. As this top layer comes off, it's known as sloughing (pronounced sluffing).

This reader submitted a photo of her foot after spilling boiling hot water on herself from a pot of pasta.

Sunburns can be Second Degree, Too

Second Degree Sunburn
Sunburns can reach second degree severity. (c) jayjay, reader

This reader was in the sun too long. It's often thought that sunburns can't be severe. In reality, sunburns can be bad enough to kill, albeit that's rare.

Notice the odd pattern of blisters as compared to earlier pictures of blisters from hot liquids or appliances. When the sun is the culprit, the blisters are small and numerous.

Friction Burn

Friction Burn
Scraping off the epidermis is another form of second degree burn. (c) DawnH, reader

Technically, a friction burn is really an abrasion. However, the loss of epidermis and the damage to the dermis underneath makes this exactly the same as any other type of second degree burn.

Partial thickness burns are bad because of the loss of the epidermis. That damage can lead to infection or loss of heat. When determining the severity of the injury, the same process is used for abrasions as it is for thermal burns.

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