What are the 4 types of burns?

You possibly know that there are first, second, third and fourth-degree burns, but everyone knows how to tell the difference. It is not difficult to tell which burn you have. This article illustrates how the four types of burn look like; from a shallow burn to a deep burn. Read through so that you know what you are looking for when differentiating a burn.

Classification of burns

Burns is one of the most common homestead injuries and specifically among children. The word burn implies more than burning feeling linked with an injury. Burns are categorized by severe skin damage that affects the skin causing cells to die. Most people can recover from burns without severe health issues, depending on the cause and the degree of injury. More severe burns require immediate emergency medical care to prevent complications and death.

Common causes of burns

Flames are the top common cause of burns, but there are many other causes of burns:

Burns resulting from friction

When something hard rubs off some of the skin, a person gets a friction burn. It is both a heat and scrape burn. Friction burns are more common in motorcycle and bike accidents. Carpet burn is also classified as a friction burn.

Cold burns

Cold burns damage your skin by freezing it. A person can get a cold burn by being outside in freezing temperatures. A cold burn can also occur when your skin comes into direct contact with an object that is very cold for an extended period.

Thermal burns

Direct contact with a very hot object raises the temperature of your skin to the point that the skin cells start dying. Extremely hot metals, flames, and scalding liquids can all cause thermal burns. Steam can also cause thermal burns.

Burns resulting from radiation

One type of radiation burn is sunburn. Other radiation types include X-rays or radiation therapy to treat cancer can also result in this.

Chemical burns

Strong acids, solvents or detergents that touch your skin can cause it to burn.

Electrical burns

If an individual comes into direct contact with an electrical current, they get this type of burn.

Burns classification and treatment

There are three main types of burns- first, second and third degree. Every degree is based on the severity of the skin damage, with first level burn being the most minor and third level being the most severe. Skin damage includes:

  • First degree burns; appears as red non blistered skin.
  • Second-degree burns; causes blisters and some thickening of the skin.
  • Third-degree burns; causes widespread thickness with a white, leathery appearance.

There is also the fourth-degree burns. This type of burn includes all the signs of a third-degree burn and also extends beyond the skin into tendons and bones. The degree of burn is not based on the cause of it. Scalding, for instance, can cause all the four types of burn, depending on liquid hotness and the period it stays in contact with the skin. Beware that for chemical, and electrical burns warrant immediate medical attention because they can affect the inside of the body, even if the skin damage is first degree.

1st-degree burns

The first-degree burn results in minimal skin damage. The first-degree burn is also known as superficial burns since they affect the epidermis. Symptoms of first-degree burn include:

  • Redness of the skin
  • Minor inflammation, bumps
  • Pain
  • Dryness of skin
  • Peeling skin occurs as the burn heals

Since this burn affects the epidermis, the signs and symptoms disappear once the skin cells shed. This type of burn usually heals within seven to ten days without scarring. However, you should still see a doctor if the burn affects a large area of the skin (more than three inches) and if the burn affects the face or a major joint which include; Knee, ankle, spine, foot, shoulder, elbow and forearm.

1st degree burns treatment

The first-degree burn is typically treated with home care. The healing time may be faster the sooner you treat the burn. The following are the treatments for a first-degree burn:

  • Soaking the burn in cold water for five minutes or longer
  • Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief
  • Applying an anesthetic such as lidocaine, with aloe vera gel or cream to soothe the skin
  • Use an antibiotic cream and loose gauze to protect the affected area.
  • Do not use ice, as it will damage the wound. Also never apply cotton balls to a burn since the small fibers can stick to the injury and increase the risk of infection. It is also essential to avoid home remedies such as butter and eggs since they have not been proven to be effective.

2nd degree burns

Second-degree burns are more severe since the damage extends beyond the epidermis. This type of skin causes the skin to blister and become extremely red and sore. Some blisters pop open, giving the burn awet or weeping appearance. Thick, soft, and scab-like tissue exudate may develop over the wound. We will discuss more second-degree burn signs appearance and treatment in the next section.

3rd degree burns

Without fourth-degree burns, third-degree burns are the most severe. They result in the most damage, extending through every layer of skin. There is a myth that the third-degree burns are the most painful. Nevertheless, with this type of burn, the damage is so extensive that there may be no pain because of nerve damage. Dependent on the cause, the signs of third-degree burns can appear as:

  • Waxy and white
  • Dark brown color
  • Raised and leathery texture
  • Char
  • Blisters that do not develop

3rd-degree burns treatment

These burns heal with severe scarring and contracture if they heal without surgery. There is no specified time for complete healing for third-degree burns. Do not treat a third-degree burn at home, instead call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately. While you are waiting for medical treatment, raise the injury above your heart. Do not get undressed, but make sure no clothing is stuck to the burn.

4th-degree burns

Fourth degree burn is the most severe degree of burn affecting structures such as muscle, tendons, and bones. A fourth-degree burn involves nerve damage in which no physical pain may be experienced. The difference between a third and fourth-degree burn is the amount of tissue destroyed below the skin. A third-degree burn might expose the fatty tissue below the dermis. A fourth-degree burn, however, may expose muscle tissue and even bone.

4th-degree burn treatment

Treatment of 4th-degree burn involves surgery. A person may have to change their lifestyle especially clothing to adjust to the burn.

What should I do if I suffer 3rd or 4th degree burns?

If you suffer 3rd or 4th-degree burn, you can:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Raise the injury above your heart to control swelling
  • Do not remove any clothing or materials stuck to the burn- it might open blisters
  • If it is a chemical burn, flush the affected area with a massive amount of water to wash away the chemical
  • Cover the burned region loosely with a sterile, or non-adhesive bandage, a clean cloth, or a sheet
  • Do not peel away burned skin
  • Do not apply ice cream, jelly, ointment or other tropicals to the burned area
  • If you or someone near you has sustained a burn and looks to be in shock- rapid breathing, low blood pressure or has clammy skin, raise the feet to enhance blood flow to the heart. Cover the person gently with a coat or blanket to help make their body temperature normal.

What does a 2nd-degree burn look like?

2nd Degree burns and treatment

The 2nd-degree burn is a partial thickness burn which affects the epidermis and the dermis- lower layer of the skin. They cause pain, redness, swelling and blistering. As a result of the delicate nature of these wounds, keeping the burned area clean and covering it with a bandage is necessary to prevent infection. This will also help the burn to heal quicker.

2nd degree burns healing stages

Most of the second-degree burns take longer than three weeks to heal, and others take two to three weeks without scarring, but frequently with pigment changes to the skin.

The adverse the blisters are, the longer the burn will take to heal. In some circumstances, skin grafting is needed to fix the damage. Skin grafting involves taking healthy skin from another area of the body and moves it to the burned area.

Similar to first degree burns, avoid cotton balls and questionable home treatments. Treatments for minor, second-degree burn typically include

  • Running the skin under cold water for about fifteen minutes or longer
  • Apply antibiotic to blisters
  • Take over the counter pain medication such as ibuprofen
  • Nevertheless, get emergency medical interventions if the burn affects a widespread area, such as; face, buttocks, groin, hands, and feet.

Complications of burns

Compared with the first and the second-degree burns, the third degree has more risks for complications such as infections, blood loss and anxiety or shock which could cause death. However, all the burns have risks of infections because bacteria can invade the broken skin.

Tetanus can also be a possible complication with burns of all degrees. Tetanus is a bacterial infection. It affects the nervous system, eventually causing problems with muscle contractions. Beware that all degrees of burns come with the risk of hypothermia. Extreme low body temperatures characterize hypothermia. While this may appear like an unexpected complication of a burn, the problem is triggered by severe loss of body heat from an injury. Hypovolemia occurs when the body loses too much blood from a burn.

Severe burns come with many effects; some burn victims lose the ability to sweat in burned areas of their body. This means the body cannot cool itself and they must be restricted from many kinds of physical activity. Other complications include; scarring, emotional trauma and damage to other parts of the body.

Managing burns pain

Burn pain can be one of the most intense and prolonged kinds of pain. Burn pain is challenging to manage since it has unique characteristics, its transforming trends, and its various components. Besides, there is pain involved in the treatment of burns, as the wounds must be cleansed and the dressings changed. Studies show that aggressive therapies for pain are required with severe burns.

Preventing 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th degrees burns

The first way to fight burns is to prevent them from happening. Various jobs put you at a higher risk for burns, but the fact is that most burns occur all the time. Infants and young children are the most prone to burns. Preventive measures you can take to avoid all degrees of burn include:

  • Keep children away when you are cooking
  • Have a fire extinguisher near the kitchen
  • Have smoke detectors, test them monthly and replace them in every ten years
  • Test water bath temperature before using it
  • Install electrical outlet covers
  • Keep the water heater temperature under 120 degrees
  • Keep matches and lighters locked
  • Check and discard electrical cords with open wires
  • Keep chemicals away from children, and wear gloves during chemical use
  • Wear sunscreen daily and avoid peak sunlight
  • Make sure all smoking products are stubbed out completely
  • Clean out dryer lint traps frequently
  • It is essential to gain adequate physical treatment for burns, but do not forget to get emotional help if you need it. There are support organizations available for people who have experienced severe burns, as well as qualified counselors.
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