A burn is damage to the skin’s tissues,
usually caused by excessive heat. Recognizing different types of
burns and having a basic knowledge of how to treat them can minimize
injury and prevent fatalities.
Heat is the most obvious cause of burn injuries.
This can be direct contact with fires, radiators or hot liquids,
but also the radiated heat from an extreme source of heat, such as
a furnace or open fire. Burns can also be caused by chemicals, electricity,
the sun’s rays, friction (rubbing or chafing) or extreme cold.
Burns usually affect the skin, but other important
areas of the body can also be injured. For example, the airways
and lungs can be damaged as a result of inhaling hot fumes and
Types of Burns
Burns are usually a result of one of the
Scalds - Scalds
are the most common cause of burns. They occur when skin comes
into contact with hot liquids. Scalds with hot oil are generally
more severe than with hot water because oil heats to higher temperatures
than water, and the thicker liquid may remain on the skin for
a longer period of time. Similarly, covered areas of skin can
yield severe burns because clothing retains heat, keeping scalding
liquid in contact with the skin longer. Even steam can cause
a severe scalding injury.
Thermal - Flame
and Flash -Flame is the next most common cause of burn injuries.
Likely sources include careless smoking, improper use of flammable
liquids, auto accidents or clothing ignited by stoves or space
heaters. Flash follows closely behind flame with injuries from
natural gas explosions, propane and gasoline. Flash flames can
cause intense heat over a brief time. Clothing, unless ignited,
often protects skin in this type of burn.
Contact - Many
burns are caused by contact with hot objects such as metal, plastic,
glass and hot coals.
Electrical - Contact
with live wires or unprotected electrical outlets can also cause
burn injuries. The severity of these types of burns depends on
the intensity of the electrical current and the duration of exposure.
Chemical - Most
often, chemical burns occur during industrial accidents, but
they can also occur in the home with common battery acids, oils
and gases. Chemical burns can cause progressive damage until
the chemical is inactivated. The severity of this type of burn
depends on the kind of chemical, length of exposure and amount
of tissue involved.
Ultraviolet - Severe
burns can result from overexposure to sun or tanning equipment.
Inhalation Injury - This
injury occurs when someone is trapped in an enclosed space with
toxic gas or fumes from a fire or chemical leak. These gases
can produce a chemical burn causing an inflammatory response
to a person's respiratory system. Initially, inhalation injuries
may be masked by other outer burns. However, damage may appear
within two to 48 hours after a burn injury.
The severity of a burn depends on how deeply
it has affected the tissue. There are three categories of burn:
referred to as first, second and third-degree burns.
Previously referred to as a first-degree
burn, a superficial burn is limited to the epidermis. It is characterized
by heat, pain, moistening and reddening of the burned surface, but
rarely shows blistering or charring of tissue. Superficial burns
often heal in three to seven days and seldom scar. Typical superficial
burns include sunburn and minor scalds.
Sometimes referred to as partial thickness
burns, first-degree burns are characterized as either "superficial"
or "deep." Both types penetrate deeper than a first-degree
burn and destroy the epidermal layers, extending into the dermis
layer. They can cause damage to sweat glands and hair follicles and
are extremely painful, often with intense swelling.
Skin that has incurred a superficial second-degree
burn is moist, red and weepy. Most superficial second-degree burns
heal in 10 to 21 days, but leave a change in skin color and pigmentation.
A deep second-degree burn can be ivory or pearly white in color
and may require a process known as debridement and additional skin
A third-degree burn, also known as a full
thickness burn, destroys all the epidermal and dermal skin layers.
The tissue damage extends below hair follicles and sweat glands to
subcutaneous (fat) tissue. With this degree of burn, the skin becomes
charred and leathery and often appears depressed relative to surrounding
tissue. The skin can be bright red, waxy white, tan or brown; there
are no blisters; and third degree burns may cause massive swelling.
Perhaps surprisingly, third degree burns are usually not painful
because the injury has destroyed nerve endings. Skin grafting or
other replacement options are required for treatment of a third degree
When a burn injury is deep enough to involve
muscle, bone, tendon and/or ligament, it is sometimes classified
as a fourth degree burn. These burns are often life threatening
and may require amputation.
Other burn sites
Burns to the face, singeing of eyebrows or
nasal hair and black deposits in the mouth or sputum indicate that
the airways may be burnt and immediate medical attention should be
NOTE: Microcyn® does
not have U.S. FDA clearance for claims other than to moisten,
lubricate, cleanse and debride wounds.