A burn occurs when the skin is damaged by heat, chemicals, sunlight, electricity, or radiation. Most burns are caused by accidents. Burns can range in severity and are usually evaluated by a healthcare provider based on the depth of the burn and the amount of skin affected. Burns can be very painful and uncomfortable, and if left untreated, can become infected.

The Frequency of Burns

Every year, approximately 500,000 people seek emergency care for burn injuries. Accidental burns are particularly common in children. On a daily basis, over 300 children require emergency care for burn injuries.

The Various Types of Burns

First Degree Burns: These burns typically appear red, dry, and without blisters, affecting only the outermost layer of the skin. Treatment: Apply a cold pack, use over-the-counter pain medication, run cool water over the burn, and use aloe vera gel for sunburns. Apply antibiotic cream on thermal burns and lightly wrap them in gauze.

Second Degree Burns: These burns may result in blisters, redness, fluid seepage, and possible loss of some skin, as the damage affects multiple layers of the skin. Treatment: Apply cool compresses for at least 10-15 minutes, immerse in cool water, avoid popping or draining blisters, and use prescribed medications. Stronger antibiotic cream containing silver, such as silver sulfadiazine may be prescribed. Elevating the burn can also help reduce pain and swelling.

Third Degree Burns: These burns cause the loss of skin layers, appearing white, charred, or black and may feel leathery or dry. Damage reaches the skin's innermost layer and can affect underlying tissue. Treatment: Immediate medical attention is necessary for third-degree burns. Do not apply oil or ointments as it can lead to infection. Cover the burn with a clean, light cloth and keep the person at rest and comfortable. Seek medical attention if the patient is experiencing breathing difficulties or loses consciousness.

How are Burns Identified?

Your health professional will examine the area to analyze the extent or degree of both burns. The depth, as well as the percentage of the burn that is affected by the process, are calculated. For example, a doctor could classify the burns as:

  • Mild: First- and second-degree burns with a body coverage of less than 10% are considered minor and infrequently require hospitalization.
  • Moderate: Burns that cover 10% or more of the body with second-degree burns are considered moderate. Burns that impact the hands, feet, face, or genitals can also be considered moderate.
  • Severe: Burns of the third degree, which cover more than half the body, are classified as severe.

How are Burn Complications Addressed?

It is important to seek immediate medical attention for any burn, as they can cause severe complications and even be life-threatening. A healthcare professional will be able to properly assess the severity of the burn and provide the appropriate treatment. This can include cleaning the burn, dressing it, and providing medication for pain relief. In the case of severe burns, hospitalization may be necessary for close monitoring and further treatment, such as wound debridement, skin grafting, and surgery. It is also important to follow up with a healthcare professional to monitor the healing process and prevent any long-term complications.

How Can One Prevent Getting Burned?

To reduce the likelihood of burns, it is important to take preventative measures, such as:

  • Applying sunscreen
  • Setting water temperature to below 120 degrees
  • Checking water temperature before taking a bath or shower, or bathing a child
  • Locking away chemicals, flashlights, and matches
  • Following cooking safety tips, such as turning pot or panhandles away from the edge of the stove and never leaving the stove unattended
  • Keeping an eye on children and installing safety precautions around fireplaces
  • Installing smoke alarms and testing them frequently
  • Having fire extinguishers readily available and knowing how to use them
  • Covering electrical outlets and sockets with safety covers.

What are the Prospects for Those with Burns?

It is important to take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of burn accidents, such as using sunscreen, checking water temperature before bathing, keeping chemicals and matches locked away, and installing smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in the home. It is also crucial to seek medical attention immediately for severe burns and to receive proper care and treatment to avoid infection and scarring, as well as to improve recovery and mobility. Additionally, emotional and psychological support may be needed for those who have experienced a burn accident, as they may experience post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.


Burns are mostly unintentional and the most vulnerable populations to burn accidents are children and senior citizens. Treatment is necessary for severe burns to prevent infection and severe scarring. Third-degree burns, the most serious type of burn, can be fatal. It is important to seek prompt medical assistance when you or a loved one develops a burn.

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