The 4th of July is all about celebrating our independence as Americans. Family time around the grill, campfires and watching fireworks is a must. However, it is also a time for minor and major burns from cooking, grilling, camping, fireworks, sparklers and anything else where fire is concerned. In chapter three of our Summer Safety Series, we will discuss the degrees of burns and what to do.

Can you tell the difference from a minor burn and a major burn? 

For ALL Burns, you should immediately:

  • Put out the fire using the method of “stop, drop, and roll” to smother the flames.
  • Remove any smoking or burning material from the person. If the material has cooled or is stuck to the skin, don’t touch it.
  • Remove any constricted clothing or jewelry. Burns can swell and you don’t want to constrict blood flow.

For First-Degree Burns such as sunburns, you should:

  • Run burned skin under cool (not cold) running water or immerse in cool water until pain subsides or use a cool compress.
  • Leave the burn uncovered.
  • Do not apply butter or ointments. They can cause infections.
  • Give over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen.
  • Keep the person hydrated with water and avoid direct sunlight by shading them if outside.
  • Seek medical help if:
    1. You see signs of infection, like increased pain, redness, swelling, fever, or oozing fluid or pus.
    2. If the burn blisters this is by definition a partial thickness and would be considered a 2nd degree burn. Individuals with burns that cause blistering or opening of the skin may need a tetanus booster. Tetanus is routinely given every 10 years, unless there is an injury. If you are uncertain if you need a booster, contact a medical provider.
    3. The burn blister is larger than two inches or oozes fluid or pus.
    4. Redness and pain last more than 5 hours.
    5. Pain worsens.

The doctor will examine the burn and may prescribe antibiotics and pain medication.

Second-Degree Burns can be a severe sunburn or severe burn from cooking, open flames or electrical tampering. You should:

  • Immerse the burn in cool water for 10 or 15 minutes or use cool compresses.
  • Don’t apply ice. It can lower body temperature and cause further pain and damage.
  • Don’t break blisters or apply butter or ointments, which can cause infection.
  • Cover loosely with sterile, nonstick bandage and secure in place with gauze or tape.
  • Unless the person has a head, neck, or leg injury, or it would cause discomfort, you should lay the person flat and elevate their feet about 12 inches. Elevate the burn area above heart level if possible.
  • Cover the person with a coat or blanket.
  • Keep them hydrated with water and avoid direct sunlight by shading them if outside.
  • See a doctor immediately. The doctor can test the burn severity, prescribe antibiotics and pain medications, and administer a tetanus shot, if needed.

Third-degree Burns are defined as burns having full thickness that result in white or blackened, charred skin, that may be numb. They are typically less painful than 1st or 2nd degree burns.

For third-degree burns and beyond (2nd and 3rd over more than 40% of the body), you should:

  • Seek emergency care immediately.
  • Do not touch or move the person if possible.
  • Call 911.

Surepoint Emergency Center treats ALL burns and can help to stabilize the patient. If needed, we will then transport you to the nearest burn facility for further treatment.

Enjoy your holiday, but please practice fire safety to make the best of the holiday with friends and family. Come to one of our locations to get your FREE 4th of July 3D glasses to watch the fireworks (from a safe distance) in 3D! For a list of locations, go to Surepointer.com/locations


Surepoint Emergency Center  is a modern emergency medical facility open 24/7. As an alternative to the traditional hospital ER experience, we offer convenience and minimal wait time, along with highly trained emergency medical staff and state-of-the-art equipment.

Our top priority is bringing high quality emergency care, quickly and easily to your family. We are committed to making patients feel better faster in a comforting and compassionate environment.

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