Burns are skin injuries caused by heat.


Burns are skin injuries caused by heat. The skin can be red, form blisters or go black. The depth and degree of damage determine the treatment, which can range from cooling to an operation.


The degree of severity of burns is based on the depth of the damage to the skin. There are four “degrees” with different symptoms:

  • First degree: Red skin, swelling and pain (e.g. slight sunburn)
  • Second degree: Also fluid-filled blisters
  • Third degree: All layers of the skin are destroyed, there is no pain any more and finger nails and hair fall out
  • Fourth degree: The burn is hard and black, and self-healing is not possible

Because of the loss of fluid and/or bacterial infection, very severe burns can be potentially fatal.

Causes and treatment


  • Sources of heat: hot fluids, objects, etc.
  • Inhaling hot air, hot gases, flames (inhalation injury)
  • High-voltage electric current, lightning
  • Sun or ultraviolet rays

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests

All injuries are carefully examined in order to assess and determine the degree of the burns.

Possible therapies
  • Painkillers
  • Bandage
  • Antibiotics
  • Intravenous fluid replacement
  • Operation (skin transplant, if necessary)

What can I do myself?

  • Immediately cool the burn under running water (cool, not cold!)
  • Apply a sterile bandage with non-adhesive film or burn ointment (no alcohol-based disinfectants)
  • Don’t prick the blisters
  • Suck on an ice cube for burns to the tongue or gums
  • Sun protection on the affected body parts (clothes, sunscreen)

When to see a doctor?

  • Formation of blisters
  • All third-degree and fourth-degree burns (see “Symptoms”)
  • Burns suffered by children, older people and persons who are weak
  • Burns to the face, joints and genitals
  • Infected burns (e.g. formation of pus, spreading of redness)

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.