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Emergency Burn Treatment


A burn occurs when the body’s tissues are damaged by heat or chemicals. There are three types of burns:

  • First-degree burns are minor burns that damage only the top layer of skin. 
  • Second-degree burns damage the top layer as well as some underlying layers of skin.
  • Third-degree burns damage all layers of skin and the underlying muscle, bone, or fat.

Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, CA, is home to a 16-bed intensive care burn unit, the largest in Northern California. The Bothin Burn Unit has its own fully equipped operating room, state-of-the-art life support and monitoring equipment and ultrasonic hydrotherapy for bathing wounds.

Our Online Waiting Room helps you spend less time in the waiting room. Simply select your estimated arrival time to one of our ERs, and then wait at home until it’s your time to be seen.

Burn Symptoms

Symptoms of a first-degree burn include: 

  • Minor swelling
  • Pain
  • Redness 

Symptoms of a second-degree burn include:

  • Blisters
  • Redness or splotchy skin
  • Severe pain
  • Significant swelling

Symptoms of a third-degree burn include:

  • Dry or waxy appearance to the skin
  • Little to no pain as the nerves have also been damaged
  • White or charred black skin

A third-degree burn is a medical emergency. The fluid loss and tissue damage caused by a third-degree burn can result in shock or death. If you have a third-degree burn, go to your nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.

You should also seek medical attention if:

  • You are unsure about the degree of your burn.
  • The burn is larger than two to three inches.
  • The burn is on your genitals, face, hands, feet, major joints or scalp.
  • The burn shows signs of infection, including swelling, redness, oozing, or increased pain.

Treating Burns in the Bay Area

Burn treatment depends on the degree of the burn.

Treatment tips for a first-degree burn include:

  • Run cool water over the burn for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not apply ice or cold water. 
  • Apply antibiotic cream or aloe vera and wrap with dry gauze. 
  • If necessary, over-the-counter pain medicines can be used.

For a second-degree burn follow the treatment protocol for first-degree burns. Before swelling occurs, remove jewelry, clothing, or other tight items. If blisters form, do not break them.

Treatment for a third-degree burn includes:

  • Seek immediate medical attention or call 9-1-1
  • If clothing is stuck to the burn, do not remove it. 
  • Put a clean bandage or cloth over the burn. 
  • Do not soak in water.
  • Elevate burns on the hand and foot above the level of your heart.

If you are unsure about treating a burn or if you exhibit new or worsening symptoms, seek professional medical assistance right away. You can trust that Dignity Health’s Bay Area hospitals will be here for you, whenever you need us.

Dignity Health provides emergency care for a wide range of conditions, including burns, in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.