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Other Names:
Thermal Injury, Fire Injury

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Burn injuries are damage to skin and tissue caused by thermal energy. Contact with flame, hot liquids and other sources of high heat are a source of many serious injuries for millions of people every year.

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The results of a burn usually depend on the amount of heat applied as well as the duration of contact. Burn severity is broken up into three categories:

First Degree Burns: Minor Burns, such as those caused by the sun are first-degree burns. They involve damage to the top layer of skin.

  • Red, swollen skin
  • Affected area is painful to the touch.

Second Degree Burns: Second Degree Burns are more severe and affect the top two layers of skin.

  • Skin color changes to deep red
  • Leaking blisters with a glossy appearance
  • Highly painful
  • Possible Loss of Skin

Third Degree Burns: These Burns are extremely serious, and involve the complete destruction of the tissue contacted, penetrating all layers of the skin.

  • Loss of all skin layers
  • Affected area is painless due to nerve damage
  • Skin takes on a dry, leathery texture
  • Skin may appear black, white or brown, appearing charred.

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Most burns are not very severe; such as sunburns and smaller Second Degree Burns such as those caused by minor cooking burns. However all burns have a high risk of becoming infected, posing a significant risk to anyone who suffers a burn. Second and Third Degree Burns require immediate care to prevent potentially disfiguring damage to the skin and prevent the victim from going into burn shock.

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Possible Causes

Clearly the most common cause of a burn is related to direct contact with a source of high heat such as hot liquids, surfaces or flame. Radiation burns from the sun are also frequent. Other sorts of burns from non-thermal sources such as electricity or chemicals are possible.

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Treatment Options

First Aid is essential when dealing with burns. First Degree Burns are best dealt with by applying a cold compress to the affected area, then bandaging. Second and Third Degree Burns require immediate medical intervention. Large burns infect easily, and antibiotics are often administered. To repair or prevent disfigurement, skin grafts and reconstructive surgery are often needed by those suffering from larger burns. NEVER apply creams and ointments (unless advised by your physician) and never apply butter to a burn. This method of “burn treatment” is an old myth that may superficially relieve the burn pain, but will greatly increase the risk of infection. Breaking the blisters resulting from a Second Degree Burn is dangerous as well, raising the possibility of infection greatly. For First Aid of Second Degree Burns and Third Degree Burns, sterile bandages are absolutely essential to prevent infection.

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Home Care & Natural Remedies

Sunburn is best prevented by wearing sunscreen of at least SPF (Skin Protection Factor) 30 on all exposed skin on sunny days. Wearing hats and long sleeves, as well as reducing time spent in the sun will greatly reduce the risks of burn. Sunburn risk is not limited to the summer months either, clear days in winter also carry the potential to burn.

The best thing you can do to help prevent burn injuries from flame and heat is to be safety-conscious in the workplace and at home. Installing smoke alarms and heat detectors in your home will decrease your chances of dying in a fire by half. Simple safety measures such as wearing proper protective equipment while cooking or working will also greatly decrease your chances of suffering a burn injury. At home and at work, planned evacuation procedures are necessary in the event of a fire. This requires a small amount of effort and can be a lifesaver should a fire strike.

Topical Use of Aloe Vera can help sooth the pain of sunburn. Severe Stresses on the body such as those incurred after a serious burn can deplete the body of the amino acid L-arginine. For this reason, severely injured persons including those who have suffered burn injuries are often given doses of L-arginine in order to assist in recovery. Studies have suggested that taking sufficient doses of Beta Carotene can reduce susceptibility to sunburn. Calendula cream is sometimes recommended to patients who are healing from minor burns.

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