Types of Burns

Various factors are used to determine the severity of a burn injury, including a patient’s age, the size and depth of a burn and the location of the burn. Types of burns include:

First Degree Burns

A first degree (superficial) burn is the least severe. The skin reddens and it can be painful, but it’s not life-threatening. First degree burns can result from:

  • Sunburn
  • Hot liquids

Second Degree Burns

A second degree (partial thickness) burn damages the top layers of the skin and causes blistering. This type of burn can result in scarring and may require a skin graft. Second degree burns can result from:

  • Hot liquids
  • Flash injury
  • Flame Injury
  • Scalding liquids

Third Degree Burns

A third degree (full thickness) burn destroys all layers of the skin. Skin grafting is necessary to repair the skin, because no skin cells are left to reproduce themselves. Third degree burns can result from:

  • Prolonged flame (house fire)
  • Steam or scalding liquids
  • Chemical or electrical injury

Fourth Degree Burns

A fourth degree (full thickness) burn destroys all layers of the skin and involves tendons and muscles. As a result, there is no sensation in the burn area. Fourth degree burns can result from:

  • Prolonged flame contact
  • High voltage electrical injury

Inhalation Injuries

The smoke from fire contains more than a hundred toxic substances. Three types of inhalation injuries that can occur from fire include:

  • Damage from Heat Inhalation (lung burn, thermal injury)Directly breathing in a hot air/flame source can cause heat inhalation injuries. Usually, thermal injuries first occur in the upper airways (trachea, esophagus, mucous membranes).
  • Damage from Systemic Toxins
    Systemic toxins affect the body’s intake of oxygen. In most cases, when someone breathes in smoke they may be found unconscious or disoriented. Toxic poisoning can cause brain damage and can even result in death. Carbon monoxide is an example of a common systemic toxin.
  • Damage from Smoke Inhalation
    Smoke intoxication is often times overlooked because of other more visible injuries, like burns. 60 – 80% of fatalities that result from burn injuries can be attributed to major smoke inhalation. Smoke inhalation injuries usually appear within 2-48 hours of a burn injury. Some indicators that a person has experienced smoke intoxication include:
    • Fainting
    • Respiratory distress or upper airway blockage
    • Soot around the nose or mouth
    • Singed nose hairs, eyebrows and/or eyelashes
    • Burns on or around the face and neck
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