One of the most common causes of 2nd degree burns is sunlight. Going out in the sun for long periods with any protection from a sunscreen or protective clothing is a dangerous thing to do because UV rays of the sun penetrate deep into the skin and can burn large areas of skin. The summer months are the most dangerous for burns; however people living in climates where there is lots of snow can get burned also. In the winter the sunlight is not as direct as in the summer months, but people get burned every day from the reflection of the sunlight off the snow.
There are other ways to receive 2nd degree burns. Accidents happen in the kitchen all the time. Cooks get splattered with grease from frying bacon. They get burned by steam escaping from a lid. Sometimes freak accidents happen in the kitchen; a pot of boiling water gets tipped off the stove and falls on whoever is standing in the way. 2nd degree burns in the kitchen can be minor or severe.
The layers of skin separate with 2nd degree burns. The epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, separates from the dermis, the second layer of skin where the sweat glands, hair follicles and tiny blood vessels (capillaries) are located. Severe burns of this nature run deep into the dermis layer, and sometimes burns of this magnitude can go much deeper and be classified as 3rd degree burns.
Symptoms of 2nd degree burns are pain, redness, and swelling, blistering or peeling of skin, and shock. Many times burns heal to leave a white or tan scar that is not the same shade as the rest of the skin. Most of the pain of a burn injury is from the swelling, rather than the heat. Nerve endings get burned and they swell and become irritated causing severe pain.
First aid for 2nd degree burns is to get away from the source of the burn. Next you need to cool the burn. If it is a small area like a finger or hand, holding the area under cool running water for 15 minutes will help take the pain away. If it is a larger area of the body that is burned place cool moist towels over the burn. A very large 2nd degree burn will most likely need medical attention.
Don’t ever apply ointments to a burn; it will make the pain even more severe as it acts as an insulator to keep the heat trapped within the wound. If the area between the fingers and toes has been severely burned separate them with sterile non-stick dressings such as Telfa. The problem with 2nd degree burns, as well as those of 3rd degree, is that the appendages can weep and stick together; separating them with non-stick dressings will prevent complications later on.
Whether you have been burned by the sun or in the kitchen, or in some other manner take care to cool the burn and protect yourself from further injury. If the burn injury is severe, call 911 for emergency care. With severe 2nd degree burns there is the possibility of shock setting in. Lie down, and if anyone is with you have him/her put pillows under your feet and legs to elevate them above your heart. Stay in that position until the emergency workers have arrived to help you.