No one ever plans to be burned. However, accidents can happen to anyone and resulting burn injuries can range from mild to very serious. At MedStar Health, our specialists have the knowledge and expertise to care for a full spectrum of burns.

The severity based classification for burns is as follows:

  • First Degree Burn: affects only the outer layer of skin, the epidermis, and causes pain and redness. Comparable to mild sunburn.
  • Second Degree Burn: extends through and affect the second layer of skin, the dermis, and cause pain, redness and blisters that may ooze.
  • Third Degree Burn: affects both the epidermis and dermis and may extend damage to the subcutaneous tissues, the hypodermis. Burn site appears charred, pale or leathery but there is no pain due to destroyed nerve endings.
  • Fourth Degree Burn: extends through the skin and subcutaneous tissues and into the underlying muscle and bone. Burn site appears charred and stiff.

Most burns occur in the home, at work, or are part of an injury from a motor vehicle accident. All burns, even minor ones, may cause complications if not properly treated. Our skin is the natural barrier to infection, and burns destroy that protection, so treatment usually involves preventing or treating infections.


Burns require fast medical attention. However, you can take the following steps until medical attention is available:

  • Stop the burning process.
  • Assess airflow, breathing, and circulation.
  • Remove rings, jewelry, or tight clothing before swelling develops. Do not remove clothing that is stuck to the burn itself.
  • Evaluate the extent and depth of the burn. Small burns may be rinsed in cool water to decrease the pain, but large burns submerged in cool water can cause hypothermia.
  • Do not burst blisters or attempt to remove blisters.
  • Cover the burn area with a clean or sterile dry cloth or bandage.
  • Seek prompt medical attention for second, third, and fourth degree burns as well as for electrical or chemical burns.

While minor burns may be treatable at home, all other burns require immediate emergency medical attention because of the risk of infection, dehydration and other complications. All burns covering a large body surface area are considered an emergency and should be treated at the hospital immediately.

MedStar Health doctors will focus on keeping the burned area clean and removing any dead tissue using a process called debridement. You will also receive medications that help reduce pain and prevent infection.

Post Burn Care

Our multidisciplinary clinical team provides a full spectrum of comprehensive services to patients, offering modern plastic surgery services that correct dysfunction and deformities related to burn injury. Our doctors have many years of experience in burn reconstruction surgery, and our nurses and physical and occupational therapists provide expert support and guidance through recovery.

MedStar Health's extensive rehabilitation services enable us to provide complete care for patients with the late effects of burn injuries. Our goal is to provide patients with every opportunity to heal, inside and out, and help them regain their quality of life and whole sense of self. We accomplish this by reducing the visibility of burn scars, correcting dysfunction, and providing access to counseling and support services to help resolve the psychological and social issues that often accompany scarring.