Burn Symptoms

Published: August 22, 2011

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Overview

Burns are among the most common injuries for people of all ages. They are painful, itchy, and uncomfortable. Pain can last anywhere from hours, days, and weeks depending on the nature of the injury. With even minor burns, scars can last a lifetime. Some burns, when left untreated can also cause fatal injuries.

Different types of burns will give you different symptoms. Sunburns will turn exposed skin red at first, and after several days, the skin will darken and begin to peel. Sunburns are also very painful and itchy. Boiling water or chemical burns might cause skin to begin peeling instantly.

Severe burns require immediate medical attention, while minor burns can be treated very easily and ignored. When in doubt, see a doctor. Severe burns can cause permanent deformity, and even the most minor burns can cause scarring.

Burns can be caused by heat, electricity, chemicals, radiation, and friction. Heat burns occur from the boiling water and hot surfaces. Electrical burns result from shocks and contact with exposed electrical currents. Radiation burns occur from the sun, radiation therapy, and extensive exposure to X-rays. Chemical burns occur when you swallowing or spilling substances like drain cleaner, bleach, and battery fluid. Friction burns occur from the heat generated by rubbing things too quickly and too roughly.

Burns may be classified in four ways. First degree burns are mild burns, and symptoms may include slight redness, white spots, and minor pain. These burns are limited to the epidermis (the top layer of skin). Sunburns and stovetop burns are first degree burns. These burns should heal within a few days to a week, and the topmost skin layer will slough away in a day or two. Second degree burns can cause injury below the epidermis in deep tissue. Symptoms include blistering and potential nerve damage. Second degree burns may be less painful than first degree burns if nerves are damaged. Second degree burns will heal within a month. Third degree burns are the most severe and can sometimes be fatal. These burns occur from chemical spills and in fires. With third degree burns, the skin is charred, and the tissue under the epidermis is also burned. Third degree burns will cause irreparable scars and destroy keratin and hair shafts. Victims might need immediate surgery to remain alive. Healing time will vary based on the burn. Some victims may be unable to heal without surgery. Sometimes, multiple surgeries will be required. Anything beyond a third degree burn will damage tissue, tendons, and muscles. Anything beyond a third degree burn is almost always fatal, but in rare situations, a victim may survive.

Treatment

Any burn should be treated immediately. First degree burns can be treated with ice or burn creams. You can also run your finger under cold water. Your goal is to reduce the temperature of the burned area as quickly as possible. You can also apply aloe gel to sooth the skin. Try to find pure 100% or 99% aloe if possible. You can continue to apply aloe for several days. You can self-treat these burns by following directions on medications. Make sure that you go to the hospital if you start to run a fever or show signs of infection.

Anything more than a second degree burn should be treated in a hospital. Even if there is no pain, you might be susceptible to serious infections. Especially with chemical burns, the damage can be worse than you think. Don't take any risks. You may need antibiotics, surgery, or fluid replacement. You might not feel pain, especially if there is nerve damage. If your burn appears to be anything worse than a first degree burn, you should go to the hospital immediately.

Most importantly, be careful to avoid getting burned in the first place. Even so, accidents will happen.

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