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How long are burns sore for?

Burns can be extremely painful injuries that take time to heal. The severity of the burn and how much of the body is affected impacts how long burns remain sore. First aid right after getting burned can help minimize pain. Understanding how burns heal and having realistic expectations for recovery are key to coping while burns heal.

What determines how long a burn stays sore?

Several factors impact how long burn pain lasts:

  • Depth of the burn – Deeper burns often hurt longer. First-degree burns usually stop hurting within 6 days. Second-degree burns may stay sore for 10-14 days. Third-degree burns can remain painful for weeks to months.
  • Size of the burned area – The more skin area burned, the longer the pain lasts. Small burns heal quicker.
  • Location of the burn – Burns on the face, hands, feet and genitals are often more painful. Sensitive areas can take longer to feel better.
  • Cause of the burn – Chemical and electrical burns usually hurt longer than thermal burns.
  • Age and health condition – Younger, healthy people often heal faster. Elderly, diabetics, and those with impaired immune systems may have prolonged burn pain.
  • First aid care – Proper first aid can reduce pain. Letting burns “air out” without covering can be very painful.
  • Infection – Infected burns are more sore. Taking antibiotics if needed can help.
  • Scarring – Thick, raised scars may remain sensitive long after a burn heals.

While pain duration depends on the individual, most minor burns stop hurting within two weeks. Moderate burns may take a month or longer to feel better. Severe and large surface area burns often remain painful for several months, especially before complete wound closure.

How long do first, second and third-degree burns hurt for?

The depth of a burn influences pain levels and healing times. Let’s look at how long each degree of burn usually remains sore:

First-Degree Burns

  • Affect only the outer layer of skin (epidermis)
  • Cause mild redness and pain
  • Often heal within 6 days
  • Usually stop hurting within a week

Second-Degree Burns

  • Damage deeper layers of skin (dermis)
  • Cause blistering of the skin
  • Can take 10-21 days to heal
  • Are often painful for 10-14 days

Third-Degree Burns

  • Destroy the full thickness of skin
  • May damage tissues below the skin
  • Take weeks to months to heal
  • Can remain painful for weeks to months

As you can see, deeper burns that damage more layers of skin hurt longer. Third-degree burns are the most severe, destroying all layers of skin and underlying tissues. They require the longest healing times and often result in significant scarring. Proper wound care and pain management are vital for third-degree burns.

Initial burn care and pain relief

The first hours after a burn are crucial. Proper initial care can reduce pain and prevent further damage. Here are some first aid tips:

  • Cool the burn with cool (not icy) water for 10-20 minutes. This helps stop burning and eases pain.
  • Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Do not use fluffy cotton, which can get fibers stuck in burns.
  • Take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve pain.
  • See a doctor for severe burns, signs of infection, or if pain persists over 48 hours.
  • Avoid popping blisters, using ice, butter or oils on burns which can increase risk of infection.

Seeking emergency care is crucial for serious chemical or electrical burns. Third-degree and extensive burns also need urgent medical treatment to prevent complications like infections, fluid loss, and permanent scarring.

Doctors have additional ways to manage burn pain in the initial weeks including:

  • Topical anesthetics and moisturizers
  • Silver-based antimicrobial dressings that soothe pain
  • Opioid and non-opioid oral pain relievers
  • Anti-itch medications and creams
  • Better wound dressings and debriding dead tissue

Severe burns may require hospitalization for IV fluids, daily wound care, hydrotherapy and physical therapy. Skin grafting surgery is sometimes needed for deeper injuries.

How to cope with post-burn pain

Burns often continue hurting during the healing process. Here are some ways to help cope with persistent pain:

  • Take medications as recommended to control pain.
  • Change dressings regularly and keep wounds moist to optimize healing.
  • Do rehabilitation exercises to prevent contractures if skin becomes tight.
  • Manage itchiness with creams, cold compresses and distraction techniques.
  • Consider cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, massage or acupuncture to help with pain.
  • Join a support group to connect with other burn survivors.

Be patient through the healing process. Your doctor can recommend pain management strategies tailored to your specific burn injury. Avoid scratching or touching wounds before complete closure.

When will burn scars stop being sensitive?

Scarring is common after deep burns heal. Newly formed scar tissue is often sensitive, painful and itchy. With time, scars mature and become stronger, flatter and less uncomfortable. It can take 6 months to a few years for burn scars to toughen up and feel normal. Here’s what to expect with scars:

  • Scars are often worst 4-8 weeks after injury when they are still red or purple.
  • It takes 3-6 months for scars to flatten out and become paler.
  • Scar sensitivity gradually decreases over 12-24 months.
  • Mature scars are usually not as painful, but may remain itchy.
  • Scars on the body, arms and legs toughen quicker than ones on the face or neck.

Scar management techniques like silicone sheets, compression garments, steroid injections and laser therapy may help improve scar healing and discomfort. But scars need time to fully mature before they stop being sensitive. Be patient, as the sensitivity often gradually improves over one to two years.

When to seek help

Reach out to your doctor if you have:

  • Increasing redness, swelling or pus around the burn
  • Fever higher than 101 F
  • Fatigue, nausea or dizziness
  • Extreme or worsening pain
  • Blisters or wounds reopening
  • Scars becoming raised, red and painful

Signs like these may indicate an infection or other complication. People with large burns may need to be closely monitored for months during the recovery process. Physical and occupational therapy can help improve function if burns limit mobility.


Burn pain duration depends on multiple factors like wound depth, size, location and age. Minor burns usually heal within two weeks, while more severe ones can remain painful for months. Proper first aid, wound care, pain management and scar treatment help burns heal faster and become less sore over time. Monitor wounds closely and watch for signs of infection. Be patient – although the healing process varies, most burns do eventually stop hurting if cared for properly.