What are Burns?

Burns are damage to the skin which is caused by intense heat or friction. Burns are the result of dry heat, such as through fire, whereas a scald is caused by liquid heat, such as hot water. Burns can be incredibly painful and can produce signs immediately.

Signs of burns

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Peeling of the skin
  • Charred skin

Pain is not an indication of how much damage has been done to the skin. A severe burn can actually produce very little pain whereas small burns can be quite painful. When a burn has occurred, it is important to move away from the source.

Skin has three layers – the epidermis (the outer layer), the dermis (the middle layer) and the subdermal layer (the layer underneath the skin you can see).

What are the Symptoms for Burns?

The symptoms of a burn are quite straightforward. Pain is an immediate that there has been damage to the skin. This is the response that causes you to pull back from the element causing the burn, which helps limit the damage to the area. The skin can become red or white almost instantly, with blisters rising up from the area.

Other symptoms include

  • Swelling
  • Charred skin
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble breathing

The severity of your burn can be separated into four types. The superficial epidermal burn is where only the epidermis is damaged, usually consisting of redness and swelling. A superficial dermal burn is where the epidermis and part of the dermis has been damaged, usually resulting in pink and blistered skin. A deep dermal burn is where the epidermis and dermis layers are damaged, resulting in redness, swelling and blistering and causing pain. A full thickness burn is where all three layers of skin are damaged, with skin completely burnt away or black, and the skin underneath white or black.

Burns Causes

The most common causes of burns are hot steam or liquid, electrical currents, abuse, fire, hot metal or glass, or chemicals like gasoline, lye, or paint thinner. Sunlight or UV light from a tanning bed or sunlamp can also cause burns. Burns can also be caused by radiation from radiation therapy or X-rays.

Electrical burns can be caused by any contact you might have with lightning or an electrical source. Radiation burns can be caused by the sun. Cold burns can be caused by exposure to cold, wet, or windy conditions.

The most common burns to older adults and children are heat burns caused by drinking or spilling hot beverages.

How are Burns Treated?

For burns, the treatment will vary according to the severity of the damage. Some minor burns can be treated at home; serious burns should be treated by a doctor.

First, the patient should move away from the source of heat and place the burn underneath cool or lukewarm running water for around 30 minutes. Do not use ice or butter. Cover the burn area with a breathable fabric. Pain can be managed through over the counter medications.

For severe burns, medical treatment may be necessary. Creams, such as Silvadene are used to help soothe the area and remove the sting. The doctor may cover the area with gauze to prevent infection.

Extremely deep burns, like third degree burns, may require a skin graft in order to heal. Third degree burns that cover a large percentage of the body will require hospitalization and possibly a clean room to prevent infection.

Burns Prevention

You can prevent yourself and your loved ones from getting burned by being more careful about your surroundings. Keeping hot liquids away from pets and children, turning pot handles towards the back of the stove, and unplugging irons (or other similar heated appliances) when you’re not using them can all help you avoid potential burns.

You might also try covering unused electrical outlets with safety caps, testing the temperature of the food you give to a child, never leaving anything cooking unattended when small children are in the home, and keeping electrical appliances away from water. Be sure to check your smoke detectors and keep fresh batteries in them.

Avoid smoking in the house, especially in bed. Be sure to keep any lighters, chemicals, or matches out of the reach of children. Also, make sure to check your child’s bath water before putting them in the tub.

When cooking, it is recommended that you avoid loose-fitting clothing that might easily catch fire. Make sure to block access to any heat sources, space heaters, outdoor grills, ovens, and fireplaces. Before placing your child in his or her car seat, check that the buckles aren’t too hot before they come into contact with your child’s skin.