Burn Injuries: What are They?

According to the Mayo Clinic, burn injuries are “tissue damage that results from heat, overexposure to the sun or other radiation, or chemical or electrical contact.” According to the NIDILRR-funded Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), burn injuries may also be caused by a person coming into contact with hot liquids or hot steam, flashes that result from the heat of an explosive blast, coming into contact with hot grease, or prolonged contact with something hot. Burn injuries may be minor injuries or life-threatening emergencies:

  • First degree burns are the mildest type of burn injury and only damage the epidermis, the first layer of skin, which may get red but will not break.
  • Second degree burns, or partial thickness burns, damage the epidermis and the dermis, which is the second layer of skin. These types of burn injuries may swell and appear red with blisters.
  • Third degree burns, or full-thickness burns, go through the epidermis and dermis and affects deeper tissues. The injured area may appear charred, and may be black, white, or a deep red color.
  • Fourth degree and deeper burn injuries destroy the skin, fat, and muscle, and may also destroy bone.

Burn injury size is estimated by the total body surface area (TBSA) that is injured by the burn. TBSA is the percentage of the body that is burned beyond the first degree. To assess the severity of burn injury, clinicians consider the degree of the injury, the TBSA, and age of the person that was injured. They may also consider the location of the burn, the type of burn, other traumatic injuries, if the person inhaled toxic gases or smoke, and other health issues, such as diabetes, heart problems, or substance use disorder.

Most minor burns may be treated at home. More serious burns may need first aid and wound assessment and treatment may include medications, wound dressings, therapy, and surgery. The goals of treatment are to control pain, remove dead tissue, prevent infection, reduce scarring risk, and regain function. People with severe burn injuries may require treatment at specialized burn centers. They may need skin grafts which are thin layers of skin that surgeons take from an unburned area and then surgically place on the injured area. Rehabilitation can include physical therapy to improve mobility and joint contracture, as well as occupational therapy and speech-language therapy.  They may also need emotional support and months of follow-up care.

Are you a person with a burn injury, or family, friends, or colleagues who want to know more about burn injury? The MSKTC works closely with the researchers from the NIDILRR-funded Burn Injury Model Systems to create consumer-friendly resources for people living with burn injuries and their supporters. These evidence-based materials are available in different formats, such as PDF documents, slideshows, and videos. These materials also include factsheets in Spanish.

If you would like to learn more about burn injuries, research related to burn injuries, or other topics, please contact NARIC’s information specialists.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
This entry was posted in Answer Queue and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Burn Injuries: What are They?

  1. Pingback: Resources from the NIDILRR Community for People with Burn Injuries | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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