Walker Morgan LLC
UNDERSTANDING BURN SEVERITY
Overview of First, Second & Third Degree Burns
A burn is an injury that is caused by heat, radiation, chemicals or electricity. Serious burns can be fatal, especially 3rd degree burns or higher. Burns that involve a larger surface area of the body are almost always fatal. Burns affect every organ in the body. The largest organ in the body is the skin. Burns also affect body temperature, body fluids, dexterity, and physical appearance. A severe burn injury may have far-reaching consequences in terms of emotional and psychological damage.
First Degree Burns
First-degree burns are the least severe of commonly seen burn injuries, but first-degree burns are just as important in principle as higher degree burns. First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin, the epidermis. Indicators of a first-degree burn are swelling, pain, tingling and sensitivity of the skin in the wound area. The burn injury area will also be red and the skin is usually dry. Being burned by hot liquids, including beverages like hot tea or hot coffee are one possible cause of first-degree burns.
Second Degree Burns
Another name for second-degree burns is a “partial thickness burn.” In addition to affecting the outer layer of skin, or epidermis, second-degree burns also affect the underlying layer of skin known as the dermis. These second-degree burns are characterized by extreme pain. The burn wounds will have an appearance of being wet or “weeping.” The area around the injury will be red, swollen and blistered. Second-degree burns also leave extensive scarring. Common causes of second-degree burns include scalding liquids, flame injury, or flash injury. Sudden explosions, like car accidents or gas tanks will also cause second-degree burns.
Third Degree Burns
Third-degree burns affect the entire thickness of the skin including burning the underlying muscle tissue. With third-degree burns, sweat glands and hair follicles may be destroyed. Due to extensive nerve damage with third-degree burns, they may not be as painful initially as a first or second-degree burn. After a third-degree burn, skin may often by brown, white, yellow, red, or a leathery black. Third-degree burns are very serious. The American Burn Association and American College of Surgeons usually requires any third-degree burn injuries be referred to a burn center. Third-degree burns require hospitalization, skin grafts, and diligent attention so that infection does not occur. Chemicals, electricity, heated objects, friction, radiation, hot liquids, fire and steam will all cause third-degree burns.
Fourth Degree Burns
Fourth-degree burns are life threatening. With this category of burn, the damage reaches to the bone and burned skin is permanently lost. Burned limbs are rendered useless and amputation is required. Causes of fourth-degree burns include high-voltage electric shock and house fires.