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Burn Injuries- Overview, Causes, and Outlook

Burns are injuries caused due to heat. The heat that results in burns can be electrical, thermal, electromagnetic or chemical. Majority of the burn injuries are home-based. Around 75% of burn injuries among kids are preventable. Open flame and smoking are some of the leading causes of burn injuries in older adults. Majority of the burn injuries in children are caused due to scalding. Here, it is essential to note that the elderly and infants are generally at a greater risk of burn injuries.

Different Levels of Burns

There are three levels of burns are they are:

First-Degree BurnsBurn Injuries

These are minor burns affecting the outer layer of the skin or the epidermis. These burn injuries can result in pain, swelling, and redness. These injuries heal by using first-aid measures within a week’s time. Sunburns are the best examples of first-degree burns.

Second-Degree Burns

These are burns that affect both the second layer of the skin or the dermis and the epidermis. These injuries can result in splotchy, red or white skin, swelling and pain. These injuries look moist and wet. Blisters might also develop, and the affected individual can experience severe pain. Scarring is quite likely to occur with deep and intense second-degree burns.

Third-Degree Burns

These are injuries that reach the deeper layer of the skin or the fat layer beneath the skin. The burnt areas might appear charred white or black. The skin might appear leathery or waxy. These are burns that can destroy the nerves resulting in numbness. People with third-degree burns might also face problems in breathing and them might experience carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation.

Different Types of Burn Injuries

Burn injuries are a result of energy transfer to the human body. Burn injuries can be of different varieties, and these include:

  • Thermal burns which are caused due to certain external sources of heat that raise the temperature of the tissues and the skin resulting in cell charring and death. Scalding, hot metals, flames and steam can result in thermal burns.
  • Chemical burns are caused by alkalis, strong acids, solvents and detergents coming in direct contact with the eyes or the skin.
  • Radiation burns are caused due to prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet rays or other sources of radiation like x-rays.
  • Either direct current or alternating current cause electrical burns
  • Friction burns happen when people repeatedly come into contact with certain objects. The best examples of first-degree friction burns are the scrapes.

The Causes of Burns

Burn injuries can either be minor issues or life-threatening urgencies. There are a large number of people who die annually because of fire-related injuries. Chemicals and electricity can also result in burns. Burn treatment is entirely dependent on the severity and the location of a burn injury. Minor burns like sunburns and scalds can be treated with home care while the widespread and deeper burns require immediate medical care. Burns do not affect the skin uniformly. This means that a single burn injury has the potential of reaching varying depths. Coming up with the difference between a minor burn and a serious burn involves identifying the level of skin tissue damaged due to the burn. There are some things that can cause burns, and they are:

  • Hot glass, metal, and other objects
  • Fire
  • Electrical Currents
  • Steam or hot liquid
  • Ultraviolet light or sunlight from tanning bed or sunlamp
  • Radiation from radiation therapy or X-rays for treating cancer
  • Abuse
  • Chemicals like lye, strong acids, gasoline and paint thinner
  • Neglected flames. These mean that parents who get careless about any injuries caused by flames have their wards getting attracted to them and then getting burnt eventually.
  • Faulty or improper wirings can result in electrical burns and even worse fires in a house

Complications Caused by Burns

Widespread or deep burns can result in many complications, and these include:


Burnt skin is vulnerable to infections caused by bacteria. This increases an individual’s chances of sepsis. This is a life-threatening issue that travels across the bloodstream affecting the entire body. Sepsis progresses rapidly and can result in organ failure and shock.


The blood vessels can get damaged because of burns.  Fluid loss is another complication caused due to burns. This might cause Hypovolemia or low blood volume. Fluid loss and severe blood prevent the heart from pumping sufficient blood to the different parts of the body.

Low Temperature of the Body

It is the skin that controls the temperature of the body, and when a very large area of the skin gets injured, an individual loses body heat. Hypothermia is a condition caused because of low body temperature. People suffering from this condition might lose body heat faster than it is produced.

Breathing Issues

Breathing smoke or hot air can burn the airways resulting in breathing problems. Inhalation of smoke results in lung damage causing respiratory failure.

Joint and Bone Problems

Severe and deep burns can restrict movement of the joints and the bones. Scar tissue might develop and result in tightening or shortening of skin, tendons, and muscles. This is a condition that can permanently pull the joints out of their position.


Both minor and major burns can result in ridged areas and scars caused by the overgrowth of keloids or scar tissue.


Burn InjuriesPeople who have encountered burns will surely experience scars. There are different varieties of scars that an individual might have after suffering from burns, and these include contracture scars, keloids scars, and hypertrophic scars. Minor or first-degree burns can easily be healed in a time span of three to seven days. On the other hand, second-degree burns take around two to three weeks to get healed completely. This is because such burns damage two levels of the skin.

Last but not the least; third-degree burns might take months and even years to be healed completely. These are burns that require skin grafting for minimizing the scars of a patient. Different surgeries like plastic surgery can be used for treating patients who have burnt their faces and are willing to change their appearances. Physical therapy is best for patients who have burns resulting in joint and bone damage. One of the most important points to note about burn injuries is that it not only affects the physical features of an individual but also on their emotions. Doctors are of the view that patients who have suffered from serious burns should be a part of groups that can help them in coping up faster.


Patients undergoing first aid or visiting a hospital for getting their burns treated are first evaluated and checked by professional healthcare providers. This is done to know the cause of the burn and the way the burn should be treated for the best results. Rule of nines is a method used by doctors for determining the severity of a wound. However, some doctors allow the patients to undergo lab tests and x-rays for investigating whether the wound has affected the body of the patient.


People need to be alert to burns outside their homes and mainly when they work in areas with chemicals, superheated materials, and open flames. Some steps that can be taken for preventing burns include:

  • Checking the wirings of different appliances and the entire property on a regular basis
  • Installing a good quality smoke detector for emergency situations
  • Helping children in remaining aware of burns and fires
  • Using protective gears and clothes when making use of chemicals or when doing jobs involving the use of electricity.
  • Prohibiting people from smoking in buildings and homes
  • Keeping hot objects away from the reach of children.
  • Making use of sun block during vacations
  • Avoiding things that involve the use of fire
  • Not leaving cooking areas and sections unattended
  • Avoiding the use of candle during certain electrical issues; using flashlights instead

Preventing burns can be very easy only if proper attention is paid to things or objects that can result in severe or minor burns. However, when things do not seem to be in control, it would be a better option to consult a doctor.


Burns and the infections or wounds caused by burns can be treacherous. It is always a good idea to treat burns at home but only if they are not very serious or minor ones. The more serious or major burns should be treated at hospitals under the supervision of a specialist. Burns are susceptible to infections, and therefore it is necessary to take proper care in getting them treated. First aid treatment can help in healing a burn, but if the symptoms exist, then it would be advisable to consult a doctor.

Burn Injuries- Overview, Causes, and Outlook Reviewed by on . Burns are injuries caused due to heat. The heat that results in burns can be electrical, thermal, electromagnetic or chemical. Majority of the burn injuries are Burns are injuries caused due to heat. The heat that results in burns can be electrical, thermal, electromagnetic or chemical. Majority of the burn injuries are Rating: 0
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