Burns and Scalds:-- Classification

Classifying Burns and Scalds as “1st, 2nd and 3rd Degree Burns” when referring to the depth of burns has now largely been replaced with the terms Superficial, Partial Thickness and Full Thickness. The chart below illustrates the 3 classifications.

Superficial Burns Partial Thickness Burns Full Tickness Burns
  • Superficial burns such as sunburn showing redness, slight swelling and mild pain can be safely handled by home treatment if the burnt area is less than 50% of the body surface. See the First Aid Notes for treatment suggestions for Burns and Scalds

  • Partial thickness burns don’t extend completely through the dermis. As you can see, these burns (2nd Degree Burns possibly showing blistering) although very painful, usually heal well and are easier to care for. This is because new skin can grow upward from the dermis.
    The patient should see a physician if,

  • more than 1% of skin surface is involved (more than the size of the patient’s palm).

  • Face, neck, genital area, hands, or feet are involved.

  • Any child under 12 suffering from burns or scalds

  • Full thickness burns, if the Dermis is destroyed (3rd degree burns), no skin can grow back in that area and deep scarring develops unless Skin Grafting is performed.
    These burns appear white, or blackened and because the nerves have been destroyed, the patient will have no pain in the affected area
    You should never self-treat a full thickness burn, no matter how small. The risk of infection and scarring is too high.

    Do Not attempt to remove clothing that may be stuck to the wound

Other Burns

Any electrical, steam, or inhalation burn (such as smoke, chemical, or extremely hot air or vapors) must be evaluated by a physician right away. These types of burns can have unusual complications despite mild symptoms at first.

Safety Tips

Nearly all burns are accidental, prevention is mostly a matter of basic safety ---

  • When handling caustic chemicals wear protective clothing, gloves and glasses.

  • don't have utensils with handles protruding from stove tops.

  • You can guard against burns and scalds from hot water by keeping your hot water heater set lower than 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).

  • Children should also sleep in flame-resistant pajamas or nightgowns.

  • Never wear clothing with long, loose sleeves while cooking or around any type of open fire.

  • Also check the temperature of a child’s car seat or seat belt before buckling the child in.

  • You can avoid sunburns by using a sunscreen of at least a 15 SPF rating. Apply sunscreen liberally at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.

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