Third-Degree Burn in Children
What is a third-degree burn in children?
A burn is damage to tissues of the body caused by contact with things
such as heat, radiation, or chemicals. A third-degree burn damages affects the outer
layer of skin (epidermis) and the inner layer of skin (dermis). A child with a
third-degree burn needs immediate medical care.
What causes a third-degree burn in a child?
In most cases, third-degree burns are caused by:
What are the symptoms of a third-degree burn in a child?
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. Symptoms can include skin that
Dry and leathery
Changes color to black, white, brown, or yellow
May not be painful, because of damage
to nerve endings
The symptoms of a third-degree burn can be like other health conditions. Make sure
your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is a third-degree burn diagnosed in a child?
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and
health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. The diagnosis of a
third-degree burn is based the signs and symptoms, and recent exposure to something
can cause a burn. This may be the sun, something hot, or a chemical.
How is a third-degree burn treated in a child?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also
depend on how severe the condition is. A child will usually be treated in a hospital
unit that specializes in burns.
Treatment for a third-degree burn will depend on the severity of the burn. Burn severity
is determined by:
Treatment for a third-degree burn may include:
Immediate care in an emergency department, possibly in a hospital burn unit
Breathing and blood circulation support
IV (intravenous), given into a
vein, fluids containing electrolytes
IV or oral
antibiotics for infections
Cleaning and removal of dead tissue (debridement) from the burn area
Antibacterial cream, and other creams
Special bandages or dressings
Nutritional supplements and a high-protein diet
A large third-degree burn heals slowly. After the burn heals, surgery may be needed.
This is done to improve the ability to move, and to remove and repair scarred skin.
In some cases, skin grafting may be needed to close or cover the burn. A skin graft is
a piece of healthy skin from one part of the body that is removed and put on an area
that needs skin. The burn area that’s covered is called the graft site. The area where
a piece of skin is taken is called the donor site. After a skin graft, the donor site
looks like a scrape. After a skin graft:
What are possible complications of a third-degree burn in a
Possible complications can include:
Infections that may affect any part of
the body, such as the lungs
Being unable to move a joint due to
scarred tissue (joint contracture)
Organ failure and death
What can I do to prevent a third-degree burn in my child?
The following are some of ways to prevent burns in children:
Make sure your hot water heater is set
below 120° F (48.8° C).
Be careful with hot drinks.
Make sure pot and pan handles are
turned toward the back of the stove.
Be careful using car seats, strollers,
and seatbelts that are left in hot cars. They material and metal may get very
Keep your children away from
fireplaces, stoves, and grills, and supervise your children if they are near these
Keep your child out of the sun. Use
sunscreen when your child is old enough, usually at 6 months.
Keep cleaning products and other
chemicals in a safe place. If they are under a sink, use a lock on the cabinet
Use outlet covers.
Keep hot appliances in safe places and
away from the edge of a counter where a child could pull on top of them. This
includes toasters, irons, and hair-styling tools.
Teach your children to never play with
matches or lighters and keep these items out of reach of young children.
Never hold a baby while drinking a hot liquid.
Test bath water before placing or letting your child to get in
Stay away from fireworks or only allow with close adult
How can I help my child live with a third-degree burn?
Your child will get treatment for a
long period of time after a third-degree burn. Preventing and treating complications
such as scars and contractures are part of ongoing care. Care may include:
When should I call my child's healthcare provider?
Call your child's healthcare provider if your child has:
Signs of infection such as increasing
redness, warmth, swelling, pain, or odor
A fever above 101.5°F
(38.6°C) rectally or by mouth
Pain that gets worse
Wound is not healing
Key points about a third-degree burn in children
A third-degree burn damages all skin layers.
Immediate medical care is needed for a child with a third-degree burn.
Treatment is complicated and may involve supporting breathing and circulation.
Serious complications and death may occur.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child.
Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important
if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.