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Determining the Severity of Your Burn and How to Treat It

December 28, 2018 by HealthNeed Adminstrator

Unfortunately, burns are a fairly common injury. They range in severity from first degree to fourth degree. Left untreated, burns can lead to possible infections.

The University of Maryland Medical Center state that between one and two million people in the United States need medical treatment for burns each year. Of these, up to 70,000 are hospitalized for their injuries. A large majority -- between 30 and 40 percent -- of individuals treated for burn injuries are 15 years old or younger.

First Degree Burns

First degree burns affect the skin's outermost layer. Symptoms include pain, swelling, peeling, and redness. Mild sunburn is actually a first degree burn. It can take between 48 and 72 hours for first degree burns to heal.

Cool compresses, aloe vera gel, and ointments or lotions designated for burns can be used to help encourage healing. To reduce pain, Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken.

Second Degree Burns

Second degree burns affect the skin's outermost layer along with the dermis (the skin's second layer). In addition to the symptoms of first degree burns, second degree burns also include pain, more noticeable swelling, blisters, and splotchy skin.

It is recommended by the Mayo Clinic to first assess the burn's size. Burns that are three inches in diameter or less are usually able to be treated at home with cold compresses and OTC pain medications. If the burn exceeds three inches in diameter or is located on the groin, buttocks, feet, hands, on a major join, or the face, it is recommended to seek medical care immediately.

Rather than using ice on second degree burns, allow cool water to run over the burned area to help reduce any swelling. Then, a gauze bandage can be used to loosely cover the burned area. As opposed to cotton, gauze does not enter the wound. OTC pain meds can be used for managing pain.

Second degree burns that are less than three inches typically heal in around 7 to 10 days. It is possible for pigment changes to occur in the skin. Once the area has healed, it is recommended to use sunscreen on the affected area for a minimum of one year.

If OTC pain medications do not relieve the pain or if a fever, excessive swelling, redness, or oozing occurs, medical assistance should be sought immediately.

Third and Fourth Degree Burns

Burns of the third or fourth degree require immediate emergency care. These burns affect the skin's outermost layer, the dermis, tendons, muscles, and bones. Skin may appear leathery or charred.

Pain may or may not accompany third degree burns, depending on whether or not the nerve ending was destroyed. Fourth degree burns extend into the muscle, fat, and bone.

Considering these burns may be life-threatening, home treatment of third or fourth degree burns is not recommended. Instead, seek immediate medical care.

A diagram to help determine the severity of a burn injury is available for download from WHO (The World Health Organization).

If you are ever unsure about the severity of a burn, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek medical assistance.  You may contact us for any minor burn treatments.  Any individual experiencing a third or fourth degree burn should be rushed to the emergency room immediately.

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