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
Expert advice on taking the ouch out
For choking or possible poisoning, poll finds many parents need an emergency refresher course
Suggestions to prevent burns
Burns, abrasions the result as youngsters 'erase' their skin away
Suggestions for easing pain and discomfort
Things you should and shouldn't do
Agency announces 2-day meeting on the safety risks of the lithium batteries that power the devices
All types of fireplaces -- wood, gas and electric -- are potential safety hazards, experts warn
Holiday extension cords, wires not safe around curious tots, who put everything in their mouths, researchers say
Suggestions to help prevent home fires
Users say they're unaware the lithium batteries are a potential fire hazard
Here's what they need to know
Researchers call for clearer guidelines on treatment, follow-up
Establish a 'no kid' zone in part of your kitchen to keep little ones safe
Follow these expert tips for safe cookouts and sunburn prevention
Findings don't show direct link to serious injuries, but reassessment of laws needed, researchers say
Stay focused while you cook
Adjust the temperature on your water heater
Take precautions to keep it safe
Risk of fire, burns high during the holiday, expert warns
Study suggests that treating patients with probiotics might help prevent complications
Be aware of equipment that heats up
But wound more than 3 inches in diameter needs a doctor's care
Doctor shares some barbecue do's and don'ts
Never use a grill indoors
Don't drink while you bake
Don't burn candles while asleep
Women, whites account for majority of emergency room patients
Make sure experts have tested your model
Misuse leads to emergency treatment for 6,000 Americans a year
Expert offers tips on using these devices safely
Adults injured by fire when young are at increased odds of depression, study finds