Burns can result from exposure to heat, chemicals, sunlight, electricity, or radiation, and can happen accidentally. When the skin is damaged by burns, it is crucial to seek treatment to prevent infection and scarring. Third-degree burns are the most serious type of burns and can be life-threatening.
The severity of a burn is determined by the depth of the burn and the amount of injured skin. There are several degrees of burns. First-degree burns are mild, mostly sunburns in which on the skin’s surface layer is affected. Second-degree burns affect the top and lower dermis. Third-degree burns are the most severe, which may injure nerve endings.
How burns are treated depends on how severe the damage is and where it is located. If the burn is small, like a sunburn or a small scald, it can typically be treated at home. However, if the burn is deep or covers a large area of the body, it requires immediate medical attention. In some cases, people may need to go to a specialized burn center and receive follow-up care that lasts several months.
The severity of burn symptoms varies according to the depth of the skin damage. Symptoms are frequently severe in the first few hours or days following a burn. For serious burns, it can take a day or two to appear.
- First-degree burn: A first-degree burn affects only the top layer of skin, causing redness and pain but no blistering.
- Second-degree burn: Second-degree burns are more severe and affect both the outer layer and the second layer of skin. They may cause blistering, swelling, and red or splotchy skin. Severe second-degree burns can result in scarring.
- Third-degree burn: Third-degree burns are the most severe and affect all three layers of the skin, including the fat layer underneath. The skin may appear black, brown, or white and have a leathery texture. Third-degree burns can destroy nerves, resulting in numbness.
If you have burns that cover sensitive areas of the body, such as the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or major joints, or if you have burns that penetrate all layers of the skin or go deeper into the tissues, seek immediate medical attention. You should also seek emergency assistance if the burns cause the skin to look leathery, appear charred, or have patches of black, brown, or white. Burns caused by chemicals or electricity and difficulty breathing or burns to the airway also require immediate attention. While waiting for emergency help, provide first-aid measures.
If you encounter any of the following symptoms, it’s recommended to contact your doctor:
- Indications of infection, like discharge from the wound, intensified pain, redness, and inflammation.
- A burn or blister that is large in size or doesn’t recover within two weeks.
- Recently experienced and inexplicable symptoms.
- Noticeable scarring.
Burns can occur due to various reasons, including exposure to fire, hot liquids or steam, hot metal or glass, electrical currents, radiation like X-rays, sunlight or ultraviolet radiation from sources like tanning beds, chemicals such as strong acids, lye, paint thinner or gasoline, and in some cases, as a result of abuse.