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Last Modified: December 16, 2022

Burn Injuries: A Closer Look

Published on September 8, 2014 • Last updated December 16, 2022 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Uncategorized

"Fire"At Good Guys Injury Law, our personal injury cases often deal with burns. Those who have experienced burn injuries due to the negligence of another may be able to receive financial compensation for their suffering. However, burns are a very tricky injury to deal with, as they often take years to heal—if they fully heal at all.

Defining burns

According to the World Health Organization, a burn is “an injury to the skin or other organic tissue primarily caused by heat or due to radiation, radioactivity, electricity, friction, or contact with chemicals. Skin injuries due to ultraviolet radiation, radioactivity, electricity, or chemicals, as well as respiratory damage resulting from smoke inhalation, are also considered to be burns.”

Burns at a glance

The World Health Organization estimates that 195,000 fire-related deaths occur globally each year. This number does not include deaths from burns caused by any other factors, such as sunlight, scalding, and electrical burns.

Burns are extremely painful, as they damage the layers of your skin and make your body more susceptible to other types of injury. There are three main types, or degrees, of burns. Obtaining fourth-degree burns is also possible, however, these burns are so severe that the limbs are typically burned away entirely or need to be amputated:

  • First-degrees burns: These are the least-severe type of burns. First-degree burns affect the outer layer of skin but do not penetrate deeper skin layers. With first-degree burns, the skin will turn red and swell, causing minor pain. First-degree burns are caused by mild sunburns and sudden, brief exposure to heat.
  • Second-degree burns: These burns reach below the first two layers of skin, causing blisters and severe discomfort and pain. As opposed to first-degree burns, the skin will darken and become “splotchy.” Second-degree burns are frequently caused by flames, chemicals, electricity, and sudden, brief exposure to intense heat.
  • Third-degree burns: Third degree burns are the most severe type of burns. They often result in permanent damage to the body and can even lead to death. These burns penetrate all skin layers and result in permanent damage to the tissues. Fat, muscle, and bone are damaged from third-degree burns. After third-degree burns, the affected skin appears black and charred.

Treating burns

The level of treatment a burn requires depends on its severity. Many minor burns can be treated at home, whereas larger and deeper burns typically require professional treatment. It is important to attend to them immediately, regardless of their degree, because areas that are left untreated can quickly worsen or become infected. Never attempt to treat a burn that is severe or that is beyond your skill level to heal.

At-home burn care

According to the Mayo Clinic, minor burns like first-degree burns and some second-degree burns that are no larger than 3 inches can be treated at home in the following way:

  • Cool the burn: Cool a burn by holding it under cool, running water for 10 to 15 minutes. This will help reduce swelling and decrease pain. You can also submerse the burn in cool water or apply cool compresses. Do not use cold water and do not apply ice. Changing the temperature too dramatically can cause increased damage.
  • Use sterile gauze bandages: Bandaging your burn will help keep air off the wound and will help protect blistered skin. Do not wrap the gauze tightly; it will place too much pressure on burned skin. Simply wrap the bandage loosely around the burn to alleviate pain.
  • Take a mild pain reliever: Taking a pain reliever, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen will help to thin your blood and temporarily ease your discomfort. Over-the-counter pain relievers should be used sparingly. If the burn pain persists, contact your doctor to discuss pain management options.

Although these minor burns can typically heal on their own, it is important to monitor the injuries to make sure they do not become infected. Increased pain, fever, swelling, and oozing could be signs of a burn that is worsening.

Seeking medical attention

When an individual sustains a large second-degree burn or a third-degree burn anywhere on their body, it is crucial to get medical help immediately. If you are present at the scene of the burn injury, or if you are attempting to treat the burn victim immediately after their injury, follow these guidelines from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Call 911 or head to the hospital: If a person has been severely burned, do not wait to secure their treatment. Contact medical professionals the second you can. Immediate treatment is often the key to minimizing burn damage. Perform the steps below while you are awaiting treatment.
  • Don’t remove burned clothes: It may be your first impulse to remove clothing attached to burned areas of the body, but doing so could cause extreme pain for the burn victim and result in skin loss. Put out all sparks and flames present on clothing items, but do not actually take anything off.
  • Avoid contact with cold water: Unlike smaller, more minor burns, severe burns should not be run under or submersed in cool water. Hypothermia and shock can result from a burn victim’s body changing temperature too quickly.
  • Make sure the victim is breathing: Smoke can block airwaves and make breathing difficult, so make sure you are closely monitoring the burn victim. If there are no signs of circulation in the body, perform CPR on the victim.
  • Raise burns above the heart: Keep burned areas elevated whenever possible. Do not allow the injured individual to slip out of consciousness.
  • Cover the injured area: Carefully protect the burns from exposure to the elements by covering them with clean gauze bandages or moist cloths. Prevent further debris or dirt from entering the wound.

If you or a loved one has sustained a burn injury due to the negligence of another, contact Good Guys Injury Law today at 801.506.0800 for a free consultation.

Sources: Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Medline Plus, and the Mayo Clinic

Photo copyright to Ben Watts

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