Burns are tissue damage caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, radiation, or the sun. Nearly half a million people seek medical care each year for accidental burns. First-degree burns and most second-degree burns can be cured with home remedies. Third-degree burns can be life-threatening and require specialized medical attention.
What are burns?
Burns occur when heat, chemicals, sunlight, electricity, or radiation damage skin tissue. Most burns happen by accident. There are burns of varying degrees. Your healthcare provider determines the severity (extent) of the burn based on the depth of the burn and the amount of skin affected. Burns can be painful. Burns can lead to infection if left untreated.
How common are burns?
Nearly half a million people visit emergency rooms each year for burns. Children are at high risk of accidental burns. Every day, more than 300 children receive emergency treatment for burns.
Who might get burned?
Accidental burns can happen to anyone, but children, teens, and the elderly are at the highest risk. These age groups are more prone to burns from cooking, such as splashing boiling water on the skin. Children and teens are also more likely to mess around with lighters, matches and fireworks or get sunburned.
What are the types of burns?
Health care providers classify burns by severity. Your provider will assess the extent of the skin damage. Burns include:
First-degree burns are mild (like most sunburns). The top layer of the skin (epidermis) becomes red and painful, but usually does not blister.
Second-degree burns affect the top and bottom layers of the skin (dermis). You may experience pain, redness, swelling, and blistering.
Third-degree burns affect all three skin layers: epidermis, dermis, and fat. Burns also destroy hair follicles and sweat glands. Because third-degree burns damage nerve endings, you may not feel pain in the burn area itself, but near the burn area. Burned skin may be black, white, or red with a leathery appearance.
What causes burns?
Many things can cause burns. Heat sources, including fire, hot liquids, steam, and contact with hot surfaces, are the most common causes of burns. Other reasons include exposure to:
Chemicals such as cement, acid or drain cleaners.
Sun (UV or UV).
What are the signs of burns?
Burn symptoms vary depending on the severity or extent of the burn. Symptoms usually get worse in the first few hours or days after the burn. Burn symptoms include:
White or burnt (black) skin.
How are burns diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine the burn to determine the extent or severity. This process involves estimating the percentage of the body affected by the burn and its depth. Your provider may classify burns as:
Minor: First- and second-degree burns that cover less than 10% of the body are considered minor and rarely require hospitalization.
Moderate: Second-degree burns that cover about 10% of the body are classified as moderate. Burns to the hands, feet, face, or genitals can range from moderate to severe.
Severe: Third-degree burns that cover more than 1% of the body are considered severe.
How are burns managed or treated?
Burn treatment varies by cause and severity. You will need to keep all burns clean and use appropriate bandages/dressings depending on the severity of the wound. Treating a patient's pain is key: improper control can interfere with wound care.
Keep checking the wound for signs of infection and other long-term problems, such as scarring and skin tightening on the joints and muscles, which makes it difficult for them to move.
Treatment for types of burns includes:
First-degree burns: Run cool water over the burn. Do not apply ice. For sunburn, apply aloe vera gel. For thermal burns, apply antibiotic cream and cover lightly with gauze. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers.
Second-degree burns: Second-degree and first-degree burns are treated similarly. Your healthcare provider may prescribe stronger antibiotic creams that can prevent bacteria and promote healing, like Dermlin wound healing dressings. Elevating the burn site can reduce pain and swelling.
Third-degree burns: Third-degree burns can be life-threatening and usually require a skin graft. Skin grafts replace damaged tissue with healthy skin from another uninjured part of the body. The skin grafted area usually heals on its own. If the person does not have enough skin for the transplant at the time of the injury, a temporary source of graft can be from a deceased donor or an artificial (artificial) source, but the skin will eventually need to be replaced by the person themselves. Treatment also includes extra fluids (usually intravenously, intravenously) to keep blood pressure stable and prevent shock and dehydration.