To distinguish a minor burn from a serious burn, the first step is to determine the extent of damage to body tissues.
The three burn classifications of first-degree burn, second-degree burn and third-degree burn will help you determine emergency care.
First-degree burn is the least serious of burns and are those in which only the outer layer of skin is burned, but not all the way through. An accidental touch to the stove or curling iron can result in a minor burn. The skin is usually red, often there is swelling, and pain sometimes is present. Treat a first-degree burn as a minor burn unless it involves substantial portions of the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or a major joint, which requires emergency medical attention.
Second-degree burn is when the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer of skin (dermis) also is burned. In second degree burns blisters develop, skin takes on an intensely reddened splotchy appearance, and there is severe pain and swelling. If the second-degree burn is no larger than 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) in diameter, treat it as a minor burn. If the burned area is larger or if the burn is on the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or over a major joint, treat it as a major burn and get medical help immediately. Treatment for minor burns includes: cooling the burn, covering the burn with sterile gauze, and pain relief. A topical cream silver sulfadiazine may be used to treat minor burns and works by stopping the growth of bacteria that may infect a burn as well as providing pain relief.