Burns are injuries to skin tissue caused by electricity, heat, radiation, or chemicals. The most common burns are the result of heat exposure including fire, steam, tar, or hot liquids. Burns that are caused by chemicals are similar to thermal burns, whereas burns caused by radiation, sunlight and electricity tend to differ greatly.
The majority of thermal and chemical burns occur because heat or chemicals contact part of the body’s surface, usually the skin. Severe surface burns can sometimes penetrate past the skin to deeper body structures, such as fat, muscle, or bone. When the skin tissue is burned, fluid can leak into the blood vessels, causing swelling and pain. Additionally, damaged skin and other body surfaces are easily infected because they are unable to act as a barrier against invading organisms.
According to the Center for Disease Control reported that in 2004, one person was killed by a fire accident every 135 minutes and one person suffers a fire-related injury every 30 minutes. This burn statistic also includes:
- 1.1 million burn injuries require medical attention each year in the United States
- 50,000 required hospitalization after their injuries
- 20,000 are major burns involving at least 25 percent of the total body surface
- 4,500 of these people have died from their injuries
- Around 10,000 people die every year in the United States from burn-related infections
- 60 percent of the Americans have an escape plan ready and only 25 percent of them have actually practiced it
- Your risk of dying in a fire is cut in half when you have a working smoke alarm
Pain management for burns can be a bit difficult because burns differ in type and severity. There are three types of burns and the care required changes with the type:
First-degree burns are considered mild compared to other types of burns. They result in pain and reddening of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. Usually this type of burn is treated with skin care products like aloe vera cream or antibiotic ointment and pain medication.
Second-degree burns, also known as partial thickness burns, affects the epidermis and the dermis, lower layer of skin. They cause pain, redness, blistering, and swelling. These may be treated with an antibiotic cream or other creams or ointments prescribed by a doctor.
Third-degree burns, also known as full thickness burns, go through the dermis and affect deeper tissues. This results in white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb. The treatment of these burns may require the process of skin grafting or the use of synthetic skin. Severe burns that cover large parts of the body may need much more intensive treatment to prevent infections or IV fluids to replace fluids lost when skin was burned..