Burns cause skin and tissue damage, even when the burn is minor.
Burns can range widely in type and severity, from a minor burn that simply reddens the skin to severe fire exposure that causes extensive skin and tissue damage. Likewise, the treatments for burns will range from simple at-home care to extensive medical care and surgeries to repair the wound.
Degrees of Burns
To help in assessing the severity of burns, the damage inflicted by them is rated in "degrees." A first-degree burn, for example, causes skin redness without any blisters, such as sunburn. When the skin is heated to the point where it blisters, that is a second-degree burn. Third-degree burns damage the full thickness of the skin, leaving it leathery and white in appearance. And fourth-degree burns inflict damage beyond the skin to the bones, joints or tendons underneath.
Treatment of Burns
How a burn is treated also depends on its severity. While a first-degree burn can be managed at home with topical and oral medications, second-degree burns often require more extensive wound management and sometimes skin grafting. More serious third- and fourth-degree burns will almost always require more extensive skin grafts, sometimes in multiples. Also, depending on what part of the body is damaged, physical therapy and rehabilitation may be needed to learn to reuse that part of the body.
If possible, severe burns should be treated at a burn center. The types of burns that require the assistance of a burn center can include burns that cover 10 percent of the body or more; burns on the hands, feet, face, genitals or major joints; chemical and electrical burns; burns in people with other complicating health conditions; and burns of third degree or worse.
SOURCES: American Society for Surgery of the Hand; American Burn Association