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Burn Injuries Explained



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About 195,000 deaths are caused by burn injures each year worldwide. A burn is tissue damage caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, sunlight or nuclear radiation. Burns are most commonly caused by scalds, building fires and flammable liquids and gases.

First degree burns are the most innocuous types, and only affect the outer layer of skin known as the epidermis. Such burns can be caused by things like staying out in the sun for too long without sunblock or quickly singeing your neck with a curling iron. First degree burns are characterized by a pink or red hue, mild swelling and mild to moderate pain. Treatment for these types of burns is simple. A person who suffers from a first degree burn should use warm, clean water to neutralize the pain and avoid any infections. Topical lotions and over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to curb any pain if necessary.

Second degree burns are slightly more serious than first degree burns, in that the condition of the skin is more harshly affected. Not only is the epidermis injured, but the deeper dermis is affected as well. This type of burn is usually characterized by exposed secondary skin, as well as blistering and perhaps even bubbling of the skin. Second degree burns are most commonly caused by fires, scalding of hot liquids or steam, and chemicals. To treat secondary burns victims should implement the treatment method of a first degree burn. If the burn is larger than two or three inches in diameter, the burn victim should seek medical attention.

Third degree burns are the most severe, as all layers of skin are damaged as well as muscles, ligaments, tendons and even organs in the most serious of burn cases. These types of intense burns are typically caused by a scalding liquid, contact of skin with a hot object for an extended period of time, flames from a fire or an electrical or chemical source. Unlike first and second degree burns, a third degree burn victim's skin will begin to turn white as the injury gets deeper. Third degree burns are usually less painful than first and second degree burns due to the damage of the nerves. This can create a dangerous scenario, because the painlessness can mask the severity of the situation. It is important to note that all third degree burns require serious medical attention.

In 2011 there were close to 450,000 burn injuries that received medical treatment in the United States. There were about 3,500 fire and burn deaths in 2011. This includes about 3,000 deaths from residential fires and 500 from other sources such as motor vehicle accidents, airplane crashes, contact with electricity and contact with chemicals or hot liquids and substances. Two-thirds of those deaths occurred either at the scene of the fire/accident, or during the initial transport to a healthcare facility such as a hospital or burn center.

Males are more likely to to be subject to burn injuries, at a rate of 70%. Burn injuries occur mostly at home, followed by occupational injuries, and then by street and highway accidents. Fortunately, victims of burn injuries do not typically incur life-threatening injuries. In fact, the survival rate in the U.S. for people admitted to burn centers is 96.1%.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.



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