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Burns: The 3 Different Types Of Burns And Their Treatment

Different Types of Burns and their Treatment

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May 23, 2022

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One of the most common injuries in the United States, especially in children, is burns. Unfortunately, it’s a global public health problem, accounting for an estimated 180 000 deaths annually, mostly occurring at home and the workplace. Accidental burns can happen anywhere to anyone, although children and the elderly are most at risk. In fact, more than 300 children receive emergency treatment for burn injuries each day. 

Coping with a severe burn injury can be difficult, especially if it covers large body areas. This article will discuss the different types and treatments of burns. We’ll also provide guidance on recognizing when a burn requires medical treatment.

What are the causes of burns?

A large variety of external factors can cause burns. The most common causes of burns are:

  • Thermal Burns – Caused by fire, hot metal, steam, hot liquids, and other hot surfaces.
  • Electrical Burns-  Caused by electrical contact with.
  • Respiratory Burns – Damage to the airways caused by inhaling smoke, steam, extremely hot air, or toxic fumes.
  • Radiation – Caused by prolonged exposure to UV radiation such as sunlight, X-rays, radiation therapy, or radioactive fallout.
  • Chemical Burns – Caused by contact with highly acidic or basic substances.
  • Friction – Caused by friction between the skin and hard surfaces.

What are the different types of Burns and their Treatment?

There are different classifications of burns. Your healthcare provider determines the degree or severity based on the depth of the burn and the amount of affected skin. Burns can be painful, and some can lead to infection if left untreated.

first degree burns

First-degree burn

First-degree or superficial burns are mild burns that affect the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis. The affected skin is red, painful, dry, and with no blisters. Long-term tissue damage is rare in this type of burn and often consists of increasing or decreasing skin color.

What are the signs of a first-degree burn?

  • redness
  • minor inflammation or swelling
  • Pain that usually lasts 48 to 72 hours and then subsides
  • peeling and dry skin occurs as the burn heals

First Aid Treatment for First Degree Burns

Since first-degree burns are mild, these are usually treated with first aid at home. The healing time may be quicker the sooner you treat the burn. Here are some first aid treatments for first-degree burns:

  • Soak the affected burn wound in cool water for more than 5 minutes
  • Take over the counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • To soothe the skin, apply an anesthetic with aloe vera gel or cream.
  • Use antibiotic ointment and loose gauze to protect the affected wound.

Do not use ice when treating first-degree burns at home because it may worsen the damage. Also, do not apply cotton balls to the infected area because the tiny fibers can stick to the wound area and may increase the risk of infection.

2nd degree burns

Second-degree burn

Second-degree burns are more severe than superficial burns because they affect the epidermis and the lower layer of skin, called the dermis. This type of burn can cause a blister on the skin and become extremely sore.

What are the symptoms of a second-degree burn?

  • Blisters.
  • Deep redness.
  • The burned area may appear wet and shiny.
  • Skin that is painful to the touch.
  • The burn may be white or discolored in an irregular pattern.

Some blisters may pop open, giving the wound a wet appearance. Over time, the thick, scab-like tissue called fibrinous exudate may develop over the infected area. Due to the delicate nature of these burns, it’s essential to keep the site clean, and putting a clean bandage properly is required to prevent infection. This also helps the burn heal faster.

First Aid Treatment for Second Degree Burns

Like superficial burns, avoid cotton balls and questionable home remedies to prevent infections. Treatments for a second-degree burn generally include the following:

  • Run the skin under cold water for more than 15 minutes.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Apply antibiotic cream to blisters

Second-degree burns might take longer than three weeks to heal, but most of them heal within three weeks without scarring, but often with pigment. However, if you see signs of infection or the burn affects a widespread area, like the face, hands, buttocks, groin, or feet, seek emergency medical treatment immediately. A licensed medical professional or health care provider might recommend a tetanus shot after a burn injury.

third degree burns

Third Degree Burns

Aside from the fourth-degree burn, third-degree burn or full thickness burn is the most severe type of burn. It affects all the layers of skin (epidermis, dermis, and fat). The burn also destroys hair follicles and sweat glands. Burned skin may be black, white, or red with a leathery appearance. The damage in 3rd-degree burns is so extensive that there may be no severe pain because of nerve damage. 

What are the Symptoms of Third Degree Burns?

Depending on the cause, the symptoms of third-degree burns vary. The most common symptoms of third-degree burns can include:

  • waxy and white color
  • raised and leathery texture
  • blisters that do not develop
  • Swelling.
  • Lack of pain 

Without surgery, this major burn heals with severe scarring. There is no definite timeline for complete healing for third-degree burns. When bones, muscles, or tendons are also burned, this may be referred to as a fourth-degree burn.

Treatment for Third Degree Burns

Never attempt to self-treat a third-degree burn. Call 911 immediately. There are some things you can do while waiting for medical professionals to get there:

  • Get the burn patient away from the cause of the burn.
  • Check if the victim is breathing. If not, start CPR (a combination of rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) and chest compressions.
  • Take off anything that might keep the victim from moving quickly.
  • Cover the burned area with a clean cloth or a slightly wet bandage. 
  • If possible, keep the burned area raised above heart level.
  • Observe the patient for signs of shock. If you notice any shock symptoms, try raising their feet and legs slightly but don’t move them.

Compared with first- and second-degree burns, which are minor burns, third-degree burns carry the most risk for complications, such as shock (Here are 5 different types of shock and their symptoms), infections, blood loss, and often leading to death. In addition, it requires special medical care and may need skin grafts, a surgical procedure in which sections of the healthy skin are used to replace the scar tissues caused by deep burns. At the same time, all burns have the risk of infections because bacteria can enter broken skin.

Severe burns also carry the risk of hypothermia (low body temperature) and hypovolemia. While this may seem like an unexpected complication, the condition is prompted by excessive loss of body heat from an injury. Hypovolemia occurs when the body surface loses too much blood from a burn. You can learn more about these by enrolling in a Basic First Aid Course Online.

Key Takeaways

Accidental burns can happen anywhere to anyone. Unfortunately, despite the commonness with which burns occur, many people are still misinformed about how to treat them and can sometimes worsen the burn in an attempt to treat it. 

  • Accidental burns can happen anywhere to anyone, but children are most at risk. That’s why parents and babysitters take first aid and CPR classes to save a life of a child.
  • There are different classifications of burns – first, second, third, and fourth-degree burns.
  • First-degree or superficial dermal burns affect the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis.
  • Second-degree burns are more severe because they affect the upper skin layer and the lower skin layer.
  • Third-degree burns affect all the layers of skin (epidermis, dermis, and fat)
  • Fourth-degree burns is when the bones, muscles, or tendons are also burned.
  • Severe burns also carry the risk of hypothermia and hypovolemia. 
  • It’s essential to have a tetanus shot within the last ten years because you can get tetanus through an open wound.