Burns and Thermal Injury

On average, two million people per year will seek medical treatment for burns in the United States. Approximately 100,000 of these victims require hospitalization, and close to 20,000 of these will die directly as a result of their burns, or from burn complications. It should be recognized that the majority of deaths from fires are due to smoke inhalation and not from the burn injury.

Also see chemical burns, if applicable.

Burns result as the effect of extreme heat on the skin structures. The seriousness of burns is determined by the extent of body surface involved, location (hands and face being worse), and depth. A general scale of burn severity, or depth of injury, is the "degree" system of classification.


This refers to a superficial burn which causes redness to the skin and may cause some swelling. An example of this is sunburn or contact with hot water. First degree burns DO NOT cause scarring or blistering and may be effectively treated at home with cold wet compresses (avoid placing ice directly on burns as this can increase burn injury), burn creams, moisturizing lotions (aloe) and pain medications. Avoid spray or topical anesthetics ("caines"); they have no beneficial healing effect. Pain from burns can be decreased dramatically from application of an antibiotic ointment and a light gauze dressing. Any blistering warrants tetanus immunization if you have not been immunized in the past 5 years.


This burn injury is deeper, no longer remaining on the surface. These burns require prompt emergency medical care. This injury extends deeper into the skin (but not completely penetrating), sometimes referred to as "partial thickness burns."

COMMON SYMPTOMS include blistering, redness, and extreme pain when touched. They usually will not cause any significant scarring unless they become infected. Blisters will appear over the following 12 hours, after the burn. They should be left undisturbed unless they are very large, cloudy (indicating infection), or in an area that will likely become ruptured. Broken blisters should have the dead skin cut away (painless procedure) so infection does not set in. The burned and blistered site is then covered with an antibacterial ointment (silver sulfadiazine), then covered with a light gauze dressing. These burns should be followed up closely (within 24 hours) to fully evaluate blistering or the need for further treatment.

Second degree burns to the HANDS, FEET, or GENITALS are of greater concern due to increased risk of infection and the possibility of compressive swelling that could impede blood flow to the injured area. Facial burns can involve the upper airway, leading to respiratory problems later on. These burns should always be evaluated by a physician.

The calculation of the total percentage of body surface area that has been burned is paramount. Those patients with greater than 15% of body surface area burned will often be hospitalized. See a physician for all suspected second degree burns.


In this case, the burn is a "full thickness burn", extending through all layers of the skin. This may be evident by charring at the site, and visibility of underlying muscles or bones. These burns appear as dull, white, bloodless skin.

Third degree burns are often dry and painless, however, IMMEDIATE medical attention is necessary. Victims of this severity of thermal injury have a complex multi-system medical problem that requires expert care.

12 Hip Dislocation
12 Hip Fracture
12 Insect Stings and Spider Bites
12 Human and Animal Bites
12 Shoulder Injury Fracture
12 Toxic Inhalations and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
12 Facial Injury Jaw Fracture and Dislocation
12 Kidney Injury
12 Knee Injury General Considerations
12 Knee Injury Contusion
12 Knee Injury Fracture
12 Knee Injury Sprain
12 Stab Wounds
12 Leg Injury Fractures and Contusions
12 Leg Injury Shin Splints
12 Lightning Injury
12 Oral and Tongue Injuries
12 Nasal Fracture or Contusion
12 Neck Injury General Considerations
12 Neck Injury Fracture
12 Neck Injury Spinal Cord Injury
12 Pelvic Bone Fracture
12 Puncture Wounds
12 Chest Injury Rib Fracture
12 Back Injury Sacrococcygeal Injury
12 Scorpion Bites
12 Abrasion Injuries
12 Shoulder Injury Clavicle Fracture
12 Shoulder Injury Strains and Sprains
12 Snakebite
12 Neck Injury Spinal Cord Injury
12 Abdominal Injury Ruptured Spleen
12 Foot Injury Toe Fracture and Sprain
12 Vaginal or Vulvar Injury
12 Drowning and Near Drowning


Abdominal Injury
Abdominal Injury: Contusion
Animal Bites
Ankle Fracture
Ankle Injury
Ankle Injury: Contusion
Ankle Sprain
Back Injury
Back Injury : Sacrococcygeal Injury
Back Strain
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Chemical Burns
Chest Injuries
Chest Injury: Aortic Rupture
Chest Injury: Hemothorax
Chest Injury: Myocardial Contusion
Chest Injury : Pneumothorax
Chest Injury: Pulmonary Contusion
Chronic Back Pain
Clavicle Fracture
Compression Fractures
Decompression Sickness
Disc Disease
Gunshot Wounds
Hand Injury: Fingertip Amputations
Head Injury
Liver Injury
Marine Stings
Muscle Strains
Rib Fracture
Ruptured Spleen
Shoulder Injury: A-C Separation
Spider Bites
Spinal Cord Injury
Sternum Fracture
Testicular Injury
Wrist Injury
hi Scuba Related Injuries
i Hand Injury Finger Amputaion
de Lecerations
de Cold Injury and Hypothermia
dd Dental Injury
xs Facial Injury
sdf Neck Injury
e Shoulder Injury Dislocation
e Ear Injury
ed Elbow Injury
de Elbow Injury Fracture
dfe Elbow Injury Nursemaids
ee Electrical Injury
de Eye Injury
ed Facial Injury General Considerations
fr Facial Injury Contusion
ed Hand Injury Finger Sprains
ded Fingernail and Toenail Injuries
dd Hand Injury Fractures
23 Head Injury Skull Fracture and Concussion
44 Chest Injury Myocardial Contusion
fde Heat Illness
ed Hest Injury Hemothorax
y Back Injury Disc Disease
;l High Altitude Illness

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