Understanding The Basics About Burns

There are three levels of burns that an individual can sustain. The first level of burn is called first-degree burn and this degree refers to a burn in which only the outer layer of skin is red, swollen and painful. A second-degree burn affects both the outer layer and the underlying layer of skin and causes pain, redness and swelling as well as blistering. A third-degree burn extends into the deeper layers of skin and causes white or blackened and charred skin that may be numb.

Medical personnel or those instructed in first-aid must first evaluate the intensity of the burn (degree of burn) that the individual has sustained first and then treat the entire burn accordingly. If there is any doubt as to the degree of burn, always treat as if it is the most severe degree of burn.

An individual receiving immediate first aid prior to the arrival of professional medical personnel can lessen the severity of the burn or even prevent scarring, deformity or disability from the burns. Facial, and genital burns as well as those on the hands and feet can be particularly serious. Prompt treatment of any burn can help to lessen the degree of injury. Individuals under age four and those who are older than 60 have an increased risk for complications or death from burns.

In the case of fire, individuals are at risk for burns and for carbon monoxide poisoning. Medical personnel should evaluate symptoms of headache, numbness, weakness, or chest pain immediately.

There are several causes for sustaining burns including fire, dry heat, wet heat, radiation, friction, heated objects, the sun, electrical, and also chemical.

Thermal burns such as those sustained by heated metals, scalding liquids, steam, and or flames which come into direct contact with skin are the most frequent burn cases seen in emergency rooms.

Fires are commonly caused by automobile accidents, accidental or intentional setting of fires, children playing with matches, improperly stored gasoline, space heaters, electrical malfunction, and kitchen fires.

You can also sustain burns to your airway by inhaling smoke, steam, or superheated air. Toxic fumes can also cause burns to your airway.

Burns can also be sustained by way of abuse such as cigarette burns intentionally inflicted.

Symptoms of burns to the skin include:

The appearance of blisters


Peeling skin

Reddened skin



White, blackened or charred looking skin

Airway burn symptoms include:

Blackened or charred mouth or lips


Vocal changes

Difficulty breathing


Singed nose hairs

Singed eyebrows

Mucus that is dark or carbon-stained

The ability to recognize when an individual as sustained a burn and knowing to get professional medical help is the best way you can assist a burn victim. It is also important to know first aid including what to do for a burn victim until professional medical personnel arrive.