Burn Injury Degrees Explained

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Almost everyone has suffered a minor burn that causes discomfort for a short length of time, yet how do medical professionals classify burn injury degrees? Furthermore, what do those degrees mean?

There are many different types of burns, coming from many different sources. All are classified into three basic degrees, although the most severe types may qualify for what is considered a fourth degree. A burn injury lawyer can help the victim seek compensation.

The most serious burns can cause long-term damage not only to the skin, but also to muscles and bone. When burns cover a wide area of the body, they require in-patient medical care. Here is a description of burn injury degrees.

First-Degree Burns

These are the least severe, affecting only the outer layer of skin. A prime example of a first-degree burn is a mild sunburn. Skin is often red and painful to the touch for a day or two, but long-term damage rarely occurs. Blistering will not occur.

Second-Degree Burns

These burns are more serious because they affect the epidermis and underlying layer, the dermis. Second-degree burns are bright red, may appear runny, are swollen to the touch, and often cause thickening of the skin. They usually blister, hurt more, and may involve nerve damage.

There are two types of second-degree burns. A superficial second-degree burn affects only part of the dermis but usually doesn’t scar the skin. Deeper burns are more severe and may cause the skin to permanently change color. Skin grafting may be required for full healing in second-degree burns.

Third-Degree Burns

Also called a full-thickness burn, this type involves the destruction of two layers of skin in the affected area, thickening of the skin, and a change in color (most often to white, although yellow, brown, or black are also common).

This type of injury won’t always hurt because nerve endings in the skin are destroyed. Hospitalization is sometimes necessary for third-degree burns, as well as some second-degree burns, depending on the overall circumstances.

Fourth-Degree Burns

These are the most severe type of burns, which rarely happen. Fourth-degree burns go beyond the layers of skin to affect the layers of tendon and bone underneath and are potentially life-threatening. Patients suffering fourth-degree require a specialized regimen of care which includes an extended hospital stay.

Determining the Seriousness of Burns

Factors other than how many layers of skin are affected go into determining the severity of burns. These include the side of the affected area, the cause of the burn, part of the body where the injury occurred, age and health of the victim, and whether other injuries occurred at the same time.

Sources of Burn Injuries

Causes of burns affect severity. These include the following:

  • Thermal burns, resulting from flames, hot liquids, explosions, and contact with hot surfaces
  • Chemical burns, caused by acidic or alkaline substances
  • Electrical burns, which need evaluation by medical professionals as the external appearance is not an indicator of severity
  • Radiological burns, caused by radiation and often requiring decontamination, are the least likely to occur in the normal course of events

If you are burned due to someone else’s negligence and live in Massachusetts, be sure to contact a personal injury attorney in Boston.