There are an estimated 4,500 deaths and 45,000 hospitalizations per year in the United States as a result of burn-related injuries. A burn is a type of injury to the skin caused by heat, electricity, chemicals or radiation. Types of burns are divided into 3 categories; first degree, second degree and third degree. Each type of burn must be treated in a specific manner and it is important to know how to recognize each form of burn as well as the treatment methods used in each specific situation. Treating a burn in an incorrect manner can cause serious harm to the victim. Here is a summary of each form of burn as well as treatment methods for each:
1. First Degree Burns
This is the least serious type of burn and will usually heal on its own within a couple days. First degree burns typically heal completely and rarely result in any form of scarring. This type of burn injures the epidermis (top layer of skin) and usually produces a pink or reddish color on the area of skin which is burnt.
First degree burns (also known as minor burns) can be treated at home and very rarely require medical assistance. Your best option is to run the burnt area under cool water for approximately 10 minutes to stop the burning. Do not use ice or cold water since they can potentially cause further the damage to the skin. If you are applying a bandage to the wound, make sure it is loose otherwise it will stick to the burn, become painful and possibly cause infection. Vitamins C, E and zinc will help with the healing process, but only in recommended amounts. Aloe Vera is said to have healing properties as well.
2. Second Degree Burns
This type of burn is an injury to the tissues in the body. Second degree burns are classified according to the amount of tissue they affect and how deep they are. Second degree burns not only injure the epidermis but continue down to the deeper layers of skin called the dermis. Second degree burns are usually bright red and produce blisters. This type of burn is likely to cause scarring and usually takes about one to three weeks to heal.
Second degree burns require medical assistance and antibiotics are often prescribed to help the healing process. Call for medical help as soon as the burn occurs and make sure not to apply any form of lotion or greasy substance to the wound. These trap in heat and prevent the wound from healing correctly.
3. Third Degree Burns
Third degree burns destroy the dermis and epidermis and often affect other organs, tissues and bones. Third degree burns are considered the most serious of burns and often produce charred patches on the skin which are white, brown or black. There will likely be very little pain for a victim experiencing a third degree burn since the nerves will likely be destroyed and the victim may be in shock.
All third degree burns require medical attention and it is crucial to get the victim to the hospital (or an ambulance on scene) immediately. You can assist the victim by removing jewelry and tight clothing from the burnt area before swelling occurs. Do not try and remove clothes if they are stuck to the wound. Never apply ice, cold water, lotions, ointments sprays or any other form of liquid to the wound. Third degree burns often require cosmetic surgery or skin grafting in order to heal.
Learning and understanding the types of burns and their treatment methods can potentially save your own life or the life of someone else.
Steve Larson is a volunteer firefighter who is passionate about saving lives.