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Burn - Causes, grades and treatment

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Burn - Causes, grades and treatment

A burn is tissue damage caused by exposure to high levels of heat, radiation, chemicals, cold or friction.

It is a damage to the tissues of the skin mainly, and in rarer cases to the mucous tissues.

The categorization and treatment of burns depends on their extent and severity.

In the following article you will discover the degrees of burns, but also the ways of dealing with and treating burns, depending on the cause that caused them.

Burns - Degrees

Thermal burns are divided into 3 degrees-categories, depending on their depth and the layers of the skin that have been affected, while they need different treatment:

First degree burn

First degree burns are the mildest, affecting only the surface layer of the skin, the epidermis, covering less than 5% of the body surface. Unlike deeper burns, they do not affect the inner layers. Often, they come from exposure to the sun, but they can also be caused by other causes.

Although first-degree burns may cause pain, redness, slight swelling, and dryness, they do not blister. Thanks to their superficial nature, they can usually be treated at home, without the need for medical treatment.

Second degree burn

Second degree burns go beyond the surface damage of the skin, leading to damage to both the skin and part of the underlying dermis. The pain they cause is intense, accompanied by redness, swelling and blisters. Without proper care, the burn area is at risk of infection.

Although basic first aid can help treat minor second-degree burns, the severity of the injury, the extent of the burned area and its location on the body, make medical attention necessary.

Seek immediate medical attention if the burn:

It is extensive or covers sensitive areas such as the face, hands, feet or genitals.

It has a deep red or black color.

It presents with extensive blisters.

It is accompanied by severe pain or fever.

Early medical attention can speed healing, reduce the risk of infection, and prevent long-term complications, such as scarring.

Third degree burn

Third-degree burns are the most severe form of burn, causing extensive damage to the deeper layers of the skin. Their appearance is characterized by a white or burnt appearance at the site of the burn, while the absence of pain is due to the destruction of the nerve endings.

Because of their severity, third degree burns are considered an emergency and immediate medical attention is necessary. Delayed treatment can lead to permanent damage, dysfunction or even loss of the affected limb.

Burn - Causes & Treatment


Long-term exposure to the sun, especially at noon, causes serious damage to the skin, in addition to redness and discomfort. To treat pain and irritation, mild analgesics, cold compresses with an ice pack and soothing creams with aloe are recommended. Drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding alcohol are essential to prevent dehydration. In case of extensive burns, blisters or if it concerns children/babies, a medical examination is required.

Thermal burn from hot liquids or hot surfaces

Thermal burns, from hot water, hot oil, irons or other heat sources, are common, especially in babies, children and adults at home.

It is vital to immediately cool the area with running water for at least 10 minutes and remove jewelery and clothing (if not stuck to the wound).

Both the extent and severity of the burn, as well as the age of the patient determine the need for medical attention.

Thermal burn from electric shock

Thermal burns are due to electric shock or even friction. In the event of an electric shock, before helping the victim, turn off the power supply and remove the victim from the source. Use a wooden object if necessary, avoiding contact with wet surfaces.

Call an ambulance immediately and take the victim to the hospital. Medical evaluation is necessary, even if the burns appear superficial, as the electrocution may have affected the victim's heart, muscles, or general health.

Friction burn from a fall

In the event of a thermal friction burn, such as a fall from a motorcycle, immediate surgical debridement is essential to prevent scarring and discoloration of the skin from asphalt residue.

Chemical burn

Chemical burns, caused by acids or alkalis, are similar to thermal burns. Severity and treatment depend on substance, density and point of exposure. Battery fluids, ammonia, chlorine, etc. can cause burns even if swallowed.

In the event of a chemical burn, immediately flush the area with plenty of water, remove clothing and jewelry, and seek medical attention if the burn is large, on the face, hands, feet, buttocks, groin, or a large joint.

If the chemical comes into contact with the eyes, flush for 20 minutes with running water and go to the hospital immediately.

Burn - Causes, grades and treatment

Most minor burns can be treated at home and usually heal within two weeks.

Immediately after an accident that caused a burn, whether to the face or hand, it is important to act quickly and methodically.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

Rinse the burn with cool water:

Pour plenty of cool, running water over the burn for at least 15 minutes. This will help cool the area, relieve pain and prevent further damage. You should keep in mind that the most effective way to relieve a minor burn is with cold water, not ice.

Apply a soothing burn gel

You can use an aloe vera gel for topical use or a soothing burn gel, which will soothe and cool the area, helping to reduce the burn.

Apply a burn healing gel

After applying the soothing gel, you can also apply a wound and burn healing gel to speed up normal healing and prevent infection.

Cover the burn with sterile gauze

Use a loose dressing with sterile burn gauze to protect the burn from abrasion or infection. Make sure the bandage is not too tight, as this can restrict blood circulation.

You can also use a burn pad, which will moisturize, cool and soothe the burn effectively.

Additional Tips for minor burns

Do not break the blisters that may form on the burn, as this can increase the risk of infection.

Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, which can make the burn worse.

Severe burns - Treatment

If you experience even a third degree burn, you should immediately call 166 or go to the nearest hospital.

Patients with extensive second- or third-degree burns from an open flame should also be checked for mucosal damage.

If the extent of the burn in an adult exceeds two palms, immediate transport to the hospital is necessary.

Before transport, the basic first aid rule should be applied to reduce the heat load of the area and loosely apply film. However, the use of gauze or loose bandages is prohibited.

For severe burns, after proper first aid and wound evaluation, your treatment may include medications, wound dressings, therapy, and surgery.

The goals of treatment are to control pain, remove dead tissue, prevent infection, reduce the risk of scarring, and restore function.

People with severe burns may need treatment in specialist burn centres. Skin grafts may be needed to cover large wounds, or emotional support and months-long follow-up, such as physical therapy.

In any case, your attending physician will recommend the appropriate therapeutic approach, depending on the severity of your injury and the cause that caused it.

In the physical store and in the e-shop of Germanos Medicals you will find a wide variety of First Aid Items for the emergency care of burn patients at the best prices on the market.

Contact us for information on essential first aid products for emergency patient care.



“Burns: Types, Symptoms & Treatment” - Cleveland Clinic

“Burns: Diagnosis & Treatment” - Mayo Clinic

Frequent questions

  1. How common are burns?
    Almost half a million people attend emergency rooms with burns each year. Children are at high risk for accidental burns, as it is estimated that more than 300 children receive emergency treatment for burns every day.
  2. What should I do with a fire burn?
    If you suffer a fire burn, it is important to get immediate care. Follow the steps below:
  • Extinguish the fire: If possible, extinguish the fire that caused the burn using water or an extinguisher.
  • Cool the burn: Place a cool, wet cloth over the burn to cool it. This will help reduce pain and inflammation. Avoid applying ice packs or ice water as they may cause complications.
  • Call for help: Call an ambulance immediately or seek help from a healthcare professional.
  • Do not remove stuck clothing: Avoid removing any clothing stuck to the burn, as this can cause complications and worsen the injury.
  • Protective pad: After cooling the burn, cover it with a clean, sterile pad to protect it from the risk of infection.
  • Move to a safe place: If possible, move the injured person to a safe place to avoid further dangerous situations.
  • Condition Monitoring: Monitor the casualty for any possible worsening of their condition and inform medical professionals of the course of the injury.

3. What are first degree burns?

First degree burns refer to burns that only affect the surface of the skin. They are usually caused by exposure to the sun, hot liquid or steam, or other heat sources. Their symptoms include redness in the burn area, slight pain and tenderness. Usually recovery from these types of burns is quick and without serious consequences.

4. How long does a sunburn last?

Sunburns can vary in duration depending on their severity. Most will show improvement within three to five days. However, in more severe cases, where there are severe blistering burns, recovery can take up to 10 days.

The pain usually begins within 2-6 hours of sun exposure and peaks within about 24 hours. In more severe cases of sunburn, blisters usually form between 6 and 24 hours after exposure to the sun, and then the skin peels off.

The peeling process is part of natural healing. It usually starts about three days after the sunburn and stops after the skin has completely healed, which in severe cases may take several weeks.

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