Steam burns are diagnosed based on:
- A description of the incident that led to the burn
Burns are categorized on a sliding scale of severity. The scale is based on the size of the burned area and how deep the burn went into the skin. This is called the “degree” of the burn. Burns are either first, second, or third-degree.
First-degree burns are identified by how red they are. A mildly red burn means that only the top layer of skin, called the epidermis, was damaged. First-degree burns also lack blisters.
A second-degree burn occurs when the epidermis is completely damaged. In a second-degree burn, the damage extends into the dermis, which is the next layer of skin.
In most second-degree burns, the top two layers of skin separate. The dermis weeps fluid, which pushes the epidermis up. This is what causes a blister.
In steam burns, a second-degree burn is often made up of many very small blisters. This looks different than burns with other causes.
A burn that extends through both layers of skin is a third-degree burn. This is also called a full-thickness burn.