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Burns Overview

Heat, chemical, or electrical injury to the skin, nerves, blood vessels, and internal organs can cause burns. Burns that involve the hands, face, feet, genitals, or cover an extremity (arm or leg) or the chest are particularly dangerous. This article is designed as an introduction to burns; there are books and special journals devoted to burned patient's and their care; we urge the reader to visit the first two references below for additional information.

Burn Symptoms

The severity of a burn determines the symptoms a person who is burned experiences.

  • First-degree burns cause red skin and local pain only. Sunburn is an example of a first-degree burn.
  • Second-degree burns cause blisters and have more pronounced swelling. The skin may slough (peel).
  • Third-degree burns cause white or black charred skin and loss of pain sensitivity (insensate) because of nerve damage in the deeper tissues. When encompassing (completely around) an extremity (arm or leg), these burns can constrict and cut off circulation, leading to limb loss.
  • "Burn or smoke-exposed" patients may develop shortness of breath; inhalation of smoke and toxins may cause death, even if they have little or no skin burns. This shortness of breath is a medical emergency, even in people that have little or no skin or mucus membrane burns.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/22/2014
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Burn Prevention Tips

To prevent burns from fires:

  • Be alarmed. Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home on every floor and near all rooms family members sleep in. Test your smoke alarms once a month to make sure they are working properly.
  • Have an escape plan. Create and practice a family fire escape plan, and involve kids in the planning. Make sure everyone knows at least two ways out of every room and identify a central meeting place outside.
  • Cook with care. Use safe cooking practices, such as never leaving food unattended on the stove. Also, supervise or restrict children's use of stoves, ovens, or microwaves.

To prevent burns from scalding water:

  • Check water heater temperature. Set your water heater's thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Infants who aren't walking yet can't get out of water that may be too hot, and maintaining a constant thermostat setting can help control the water temperature throughout your home - preventing it from getting too high.

SOURCE: Burns Safety: The Reality.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Burns, Thermal »

Burn injuries account for an estimated 700,000 annual emergency department (ED) visits per year.

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