Besides the intense pain, a burn can be a distressing experience, especially when you’re not sure how severe your burn is. While serious burns should always be seen by a doctor in order to be safe, you may not be sure if your burn is severe enough for the ER or can be handled by your doctor. Learning to identify burn types can help you decide what to do for treatment. Burn Damage Assessment Burns are typically classified as first, second, and third degree, a system that indicates the seriousness of the damage. Some burns can be treated at home, while others require emergency care.
Factors to consider when deciding if you need urgent care include:
- The size of the area of the burn
- The area of the body where the burn occurred
- The cause of the burn
- The age and health of the person
If you ever have a question regarding how to treat a burn, contact your physician and be prepared to give them the above information so they can help with the assessment. Burn Types Learning to identify the three types of burns will help you decide if you can treat it at home or need to seek immediate care from your doctor or an emergency service.
Third-Degree Burn Third-degree burns are the most serious and should receive immediate emergency physician attention. This burn damages all three skin layers, as well as the fat, connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. This burn may prevent skin from growing back in the area. This burn is usually dry and hard, and looks like leather. The area can look white, dark red or black. The burned area may not have any feeling if the nerves were damaged. There can either be severe pain or none at all depending on the damage to the nerve endings. Because this burn damages all of the protective skin layers, infection is a big concern. These burns always require an emergency physician’s care. Wrap the area in a clean cloth or gauze bandage and get the person to emergency care immediately. Depending on the size of the area affected, hospitalization may be required and skin grafts used to protect the area.
Second-Degree Burn These are common burns that affect the first two layers of skin. The burn area will be moist, painful, and swollen with some blisters. If the burn is slightly deeper, the skin may begin to look dry, but have moist areas with blisters. Pressing on the burn may cause it to turn white then back to red. If there is minor redness and few blisters, this burn can be covered with a clean gauze bandage and left to heal on its own. If it is a large area with a lot of redness and many blisters, you may want to talk to your doctor, to be safe. A serious second-degree burn can also leave a scar, but a physician’s help may prevent this.
First-Degree Burn This type of burn is similar to what you see with a sunburn. The top layer of skin is damaged. Slight redness is present but no blisters. There may be some pain and swelling. There is rarely a need to see a physician for this burn unless it appears on a large portion of the body. Then the person will have other symptoms, such as dehydration, which should be treated immediately. Otherwise, first-degree burns heal on their own in a few days.
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