Third-degree burns are significantly deeper than first- or second-degree, reaching the deepest layers of skin and, in many cases, the tissues below the skin. They are also known as full-thickness burns and are typically described as leathery, waxy, charred, or woody. The skin takes on an unnatural appearance and will turn color--either to a deep brown, black or a pale white. In such cases, the affected areas of skin are permanently damaged. Because the burn victim's nerve-endings have suffered trauma, they may or may not experience pain once the burn has occurred. Pain, in this circumstance, is a good sign; it means the nerves are alive and well.
Needless to say, third-degree burns absolutely necessitate medical attention and may require procedures like skin grafts. Should you receive such a burn, it is important to act immediately. In some cases, these burns can be fatal, so call 911 (or the emergency services in your area) for an ambulance. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, remove any items touching the skin--unless they have been sealed together by the burn. If you tear the skin, you run the risk of infection and further permanent damage. After you've removed clothing or objects, run cool water over the burned area. Do not put ice on the burn. Cool water allows the skin to be rehydrated. Ice, on the other hand, only causes more trauma. If the victim is still uncomfortable, you can lightly drape a clean sheet over the burn. It is paramount that the skin be allowed to breathe. Avoid any type of creams, lotions, ointments, butter, or other "home remedies." Such products can trap heat to the skin, invite infection, and limit healing possibilities.
Information for this node was provided to me by a nurse at the hospital but may also be found in part on the web at http://www.burnsurvivorsonline.com/injuries/degree.asp