Finger burns range in severity from first to third degree, with each type requiring a different level of care. Many finger burns are treatable at home, but some will require immediate medical care.

Accidents at home lead to many cases of burned fingers, which can also be a common occurrence in the workplace among people with certain occupations.

The common causes of burns range from hot stoves to chemicals.

In this article, we look at the symptoms and different severities of burned fingers. We also discuss the treatment options and explain when to see a doctor.

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The symptoms of a burn vary depending on its severity.

The following are the symptoms for first, second, and third degree burns.

First degree burn

First degree burns are the mildest type of burn. The American Academy of Dermatology Association note that first degree burns only affect the top layer of skin.

A person may get a first degree burn on the fingers after touching hot food, a curling or straightening iron, or hot cookware.

Burns can present differently depending on a person’s skin tone. However, the symptoms will typically include a burning or painful sensation and mild swelling. First degree burns are unlikely to cause blisters, but the affected area may appear red or discolored in some people.

Second degree burn

A second degree burn is more severe than a first degree burn.

In addition to affecting the top layer of skin, a second degree burn partially damages the underlying layer, which is called the dermis.

Some common second degree burn symptoms in children include:

  • dark red skin or other irregular discoloration
  • blisters, under which the skin may be pink
  • the burned area being painful to touch
  • the burned area appearing shiny and wet

Third degree burn

Third degree burns are the most severe and will likely require specialized treatment.

Burns of this severity destroy both the epidermis and dermis. The symptoms can vary according to the cause and the person’s skin type, but they may include:

  • limited or no pain
  • blisters
  • the skin may appear white, red, pale pink, or tan
  • leathery skin

Several common substances and occurrences can cause a person to burn their fingers or other parts of their body.

The following are some common causes of each degree of burn.

First degree

Some common causes of first degree burns on the fingers can include:

  • sunlight
  • steam
  • touching a hot stove
  • contact with a curling iron or another heated hair styling tool
  • contact with other hot items around the home or workplace

Second degree

Some common causes of second degree burns on the fingers may include:

  • severe sunburn
  • steam
  • chemicals
  • electricity
  • hot objects around the house or workplace
  • flames
  • contact with a hot liquid, such as tea or boiling water

Third degree

Third degree burns are the most severe and can occur when the fingers come into contact with:

  • electricity
  • chemicals
  • fire
  • hot coals
  • grease
  • roofing tar
  • hot oil

The severity of the burn will determine the necessary treatment.

For third degree burns, it is important for a person to seek medical attention, even if the finger is the only affected part of the body.

First degree

First degree burns on the fingers require minimal care. Often, a person with a first degree burn can treat it at home. People can care for a first degree burn by:

  • running the burn under cool water for 5 minutes to stop the burning
  • removing jewelry from around the burn
  • covering the burned finger with a sterile bandage that will not stick to the burn
  • using a lotion that contains aloe vera to help alleviate pain

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications may help with pain from first degree burns.

People taking medications or living with underlying health conditions should talk to their doctor about appropriate treatment choices.

Second degree

Second degree burns may require more attention than first degree burns.

It is still often possible to treat second degree burns at home, depending on the size of the affected area.

Some treatment steps can include:

  • running the burn under cool water
  • applying antibiotic ointment to the burn
  • covering the burn with bandages
  • keeping the burn clean

If electricity causes a burn, the burn is large, or the affected skin appears charred or leathery, a person should seek emergency care.

Third degree

A third degree burn will require medical attention immediately.

Some common treatments include:

  • early cleaning and debriding (removing dead skin)
  • antibiotic creams
  • oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics, if necessary to fight infection
  • providing a humid, warm environment for the burn
  • cosmetic or functional reconstruction
  • medications for pain
  • skin grafting
  • a tetanus shot

Most of the time, burns on the fingers are not third degree burns and do not require the extensive medical treatment that more serious burns need.

A person can often treat a minor finger burn at home.

The first step for both first and second degree burns is to hold the affected area under cool running water for several minutes. Doing this helps stop further damage from occurring.

People should avoid putting ice or iced water on burns, as these can further damage the skin in the area.

However, a person can apply aloe vera to their burn to soothe the pain.

According to a review of studies, a large body of evidence supports the use of aloe vera for the treatment of first or second degree burns.

A person should see a doctor if they or their child has a burn that:

  • is electrical, even if the burn has only affected the finger or hand
  • appears leathery and dry or covers a larger area of the body than just the finger (such as the whole hand)
  • surrounds the entire digit
  • does not appear to be healing or occurs alongside signs of infection, such as swelling or fever

An older review of studies about burned upper extremities, including parts of the hands, stated that only 25% of burns to the upper limbs require medical assistance.

Among people who require medical treatment for burned fingers or hands, only a minority will require inpatient care.

Burns range in severity from first to third degree, with third being the most severe.

A person should treat any electrical burn as a severe burn and seek medical attention for it immediately.

Most people will experience first or second degree burns from exposure to sunlight or touching a common household item, such as a stove or curling iron, when it is hot.

Treatments often start at home and should include running cool water over the burn and keeping it clean and dry.

Aloe vera and pain relief medications may help with healing and reducing pain.

Burns can present differently in people with different skin tones. However, a person should always see a doctor for any burn that covers a large area of skin or appears leathery and dried out.