The term burn designates a skin lesion caused by heat, in some cases, the lesion also relates to the subcutaneous tissues. The causes are mainly; fire, hot liquids, chemicals, and electricity (electric burns). Most of these burns occur in domestic environments.

Burns can be classified into first, second and third degree depending on their severity. Those of the first instance are milder and involve the superficial layer of the skin causing capillary dilation. This type of burn usually heals spontaneously in 5 to 7 days, without scarring.

Burns that are of second degree instead affect the superficial and deep layers of the skin, the more superficial lesions heal within 10 to 15 days without scarring, while the deeper healing is slower and can have remains of scars.

Burns that are of the third degree ultimately damages the subcutaneous layer resulting in tissue necrosis and the formation of black spots and scabs. These burns usually leave visible scars.

The severity of the burn also depends on its extension. Burns are localized in the surface of the body, and are involved in less than 20% in adults and 12 to 15% in children. Burns are usually spread wider than the effects which usually affect the whole body.

What are the symptoms associated with a burn?

Burns of the first degree only show a reddening of the burned area on the body, the erythema generates intense pain and burning on the localized area which is affected. The second degree burns are characterized by the presence of bubbles due to the leakage of blood from the capillaries that are involved in the skin, the wound produces pain and burning. In the case of a third degree burn, the skin takes on a brown, black or white shade and is very hard to the touch. The destruction of nerve cells causes the patient to not even feel pain, in the associated area.

What to do in case of burns

A burn should never be underestimated, especially when healing is slow in coming and when it seems that the wound is infected. It is important to have a qualified medical personnel examine the wound, if the burn area involves sensitive parts of the body, such as the face, mouth or genitals, or is particularly serious.

First step is to attempt to remove any superficial clothing and accessories that could hinder the dressing (such as rings, necklaces and bracelets) taking care not to irritate that of the burned area. Then make compresses of cool water for about fifteen minutes and cover the clean area with still wet cotton linens, taking care not to compress it too. Allow the patient to lie down and cover the wounded area.

What not to do in case of burns

If the clothes are adhering to the burn, you do not have to try and absolutely remove them, in fact, this attempt could also remove the skin and make the situation worse.

Do not apply anything on the burn, this includes and is not limited to;

  • Creams
  • Ointments
  • Disinfectants
  • Ice or other remedies which are to be avoided.
  • If the burn has occurred by contact with chemicals however (for example dry lime), water should be avoided.
  • Do not pierce the bubbles because this could lead to infections.
  • Do not give water to the burned area (depending on the degree of the burn)

Follow closely the signs of relief.  


Disclaimer: The information in this article does not in any way replace the intervention or signs associated with this type of emergency, but rather only provides simple tips as how to keep the situation under control while waiting for a medical rescue team to arrive.