Learn About Burns: Get Schooled in Burn Awareness

Learn About Burns: Get Schooled in Burn Awareness

When it comes to burns, it’s all about education. The American Burn Association’s National Burn Awareness Week is the perfect time to brush up on your burn awareness, including prevention and treatment tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

Do you have your degree in burns?

Here’s a crash course on types of burns and when to seek medical treatment for them:

  • First-degree: involves only the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and is red and painful — think sunburn
  • Second-degree: involves parts of the dermis (inner layer) and displays wide variation, from red, blistered, painful and swollen to blistering with whitish tissue underneath the skin
  • Third-degree: involves all of the dermis and displays deep, whitish color; there is no pain when you press on the burn since nerve endings are destroyed
  • Fourth-degree: damage extends to tendons and bones, and there is no pain

Matthew Carrick, MD, trauma medical director at The Medical Center of Plano, describes the various types of burns.

Do you know your major?

The difference between minor and major burns.

Burns are divided into two groups, although it’s possible to have more than one type of burn at a time:

    • Minor burns:
      • First-degree burns anywhere on the body
      • Second-degree burns less than 2 to 3 inches wide
    • Major burns:
      • Second-degree burns more than 2 to 3 inches wide
      • Second-degree burns on the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or major joint
      • Third- and fourth-degree burns
      • Burns in the airway, which can happen if you breathe in smoke, steam, superheated air or chemical fumes in poorly ventilated areas

Major burns require immediate medical care to help prevent scarring, disability or deformity. Burns on the face, hands, feet and genitals can be particularly serious.

Contrary to popular belief, do not apply ice to the burn as this can cause further damage to the tissue. Similarly, do not apply burn or antibacterial ointment — it doesn’t help, and doctors will need to remove it to examine the burn. If clothing is sticking to the burn, leave it in place for medical professionals to remove. Simply cover the burn with a clean dressing, towel or shirt to prevent if from getting contaminated and seek medical attention right away.


Are you taking notes?

Look for these symptoms to help determine which group the burn falls into:

      • Blisters (intact or ruptured and leaking fluid)
      • Pain (how much pain you have is inversely related to the level of burn; the most serious burns can be painless)
      • Peeling skin
      • Shock (watch for pale and clammy skin, weakness, blue lips and fingernails, and a drop in alertness)
      • Swelling
      • Red, white or charred skin

Additionally, look for these symptoms that may indicate burned airways:

      • Burns on the head, face, neck, eyebrows or nose hairs
      • Burned lips and mouth
      • Coughing
      • Difficulty breathing
      • Dark, black-stained mucus
      • Voice changes
      • Wheezing

Common types of burns

Keep in mind burns can come from many different sources. Most common causes of burns are:

      • Fire or flame
      • Scalding from steam or hot liquids
      • Touching hot objects
      • Electrical burns
      • Chemical burns

Salil Gulati, MD, plastic surgeon and burn specialist at The Medical Center of Plano, discusses common burns that are encountered from childhood to adulthood.

Now that you know how to classify burns and their potential causes and symptoms, you are better prepared to handle an emergency situation. If you determine that a burn requires immediate medical attention or if you aren’t sure, the specialists at The Medical Center of Plano Burn & Reconstructive Center of Texas can help provide high-level burn care.

The Burn & Reconstructive Center is Collin County’s first dedicated burn unit and serves patients from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and beyond.

If you need burn care, call (855) 863-9595.

Medical City Healthcare also provides a comprehensive network of hospital and emergency services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with average ER wait times available online to help you get the care you need fast! Find our ER nearest you at FasterTX.com.

Different Types of Burns
Common Types of Burns

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.