Burn care

Electricity, chemicals, steam, very hot water and fire can all cause serious burns. Prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures can cause frostbite. The care you receive for burns or frostbite will depend on the type and severity of your injury.

When to go to the emergency department

For a second- or third-degree burn, burns all the way around an arm or leg, burns caused by electricity or chemicals, burns involving the eyes, mouth, airway or any burn that covers large parts of the body, go to the emergency department or call 911 right away.

The Burn and Frostbite Center at Anschutz

If your burn injury requires additional assessment by a burn specialist, a consultation will be made to the Burn and Frostbite Center at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado. The Burn and Frostbite Center has been verified by the American Burn Association as a center of excellence since 1998.

For physicians: to refer a patient to us, please call our DocLine at 1.844.285.4555 at any time.

Front of UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital

Types of burns

The four types of burns are first-, second-, third- or fourth-degree, classified by how deeply they penetrate the skin’s surface.

First-degree (superficial) burns

  • First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin (the epidermis).
  • The burn site is red, painful and dry, with no blisters—mild sunburn is an example. These burns rarely cause long-term tissue damage; any damage they might cause would likely be an increase or decrease in skin color.

Second-degree (partial thickness) burns

  • Second-degree burns affect the epidermis and part of the lower layer of skin (the dermis).
  • The burn site is red or potentially white or splotchy, is blistered and may be swollen and painful.
  • Seek medical treatment if the burned area is longer than three inches or covers the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks. If you have any doubt, speak with a medical provider.

Third-degree (full thickness) burns

  • Third-degree burns destroy the epidermis and dermis. They may go into the innermost layer of skin, the subcutaneous tissue.
  • The burn site may be white or blackened and charred.
  • Victims of third-degree burns need immediate medical care. Call 911 or take the victim to the emergency room.

Fourth-degree burns

  • Fourth-degree burns go through both layers of skin and underlying tissue as well as deeper tissue, possibly involving muscle and bone. There is no feeling in the area because the nerve endings are destroyed.
  • The burn site looks waxy white, leathery gray or charred black, and the skin looks dry. You might even see muscle or bone.
  • Victims of fourth-degree burns need immediate medical attention. Call 911 or take the victim to the emergency room.


Frostbite is a freezing injury of your body’s tissues and most commonly affects your fingers, toes, cheeks, chin, ears and nose.

Connect to the burn community

The Burn and Frostbite Center in metro Denver offers many resources to facilitate emotional healing post-burn injury, including Burn Support Group, Survivor Peer Support through the Phoenix Society SOAR Program, and Outreach and Prevention volunteer opportunities.

To connect to our burn community, contact our outreach manager at 720.848.7850.