Burns symptoms, causes and treatment

One of the most common household injuries is burns. This case frequently happens to children, especially if they were left alone. When we talk about burns, a person will feel a burning sensation that comes with pain. This severe skin damage will kill the skin cells in the affected area.


Most people who are experiencing burns recovers without formal treatment and serious health risks. But the consequences of this condition will depend on the cause and degree of burns. When your burns are more serious, and the cause was a large fire, then you will need emergency medical help to avoid additional complications and even death.

Burns have three types or categories: first-degree burn, second-degree burn, and third-degree burn. When you have burns, its severity of skin damage will be the base to determine immune deficiency which type it must go. The common damages of each type are:

  • First-degree burn: redness and non-blistered skin
  • Second-degree burn: thickening of the skin and blisters
  • Third-degree burn: wide thickness with a white, leathery appearance

There are cases where burns are classified as fourth-degree. This type will show all the signs or third-degree, and the burns reached the tendons and bones.

Causes of Burns

Burns has many causes that are commonly present in our environment. The most popular of them are:

  • Fire 
  • Hot metals or glass
  • Hot or steamed liquid
  • Electrical currents
  • Radiation
  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Chemicals 

Diagnosis and Treatment of Burns

The most recommended way to know the severity of your burns is to visit your doctor. A doctor can check and assess your burn through a close examination of the affected skin. When your doctor sees that your burns cover the 10% of your body’s surface area, it is very deep, or the location is on the face, groin, or feet, he will recommend you to a burn center so you can be advised with the right treatment. Aside from checking your injuries and observing your burns, necessary lab tests, X-rays, and other examinations might be done to deliver an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment of Burns

Most treatments of minor burns can be done at home. Many accidents that resulted in minor burns heal after a week or two. But for those patients who have severe burns in any part of the body, they will need immediate first-aid treatment and undergo a wound assessment process to determine the severity. Treatments of severe burns might include alloderm medications, therapy, wound dressings, and surgery. Every treatment aims to control the pain, prevent infections, remove the dead tissue, reduce the risk of scarring, and regain function. 

For those people who have burns, they are being encouraged to perform treatment at the local burn centers. This step will reduce the possible risks of burns. Large wounds caused by burns must be covered by skin grafts to avoid infection and speed up healing. Emotional support and follow up checkups such as physical therapy may be required so the treatment will become successful. 

Medical Treatment 

As soon as you are done with the first aid and burn assessment, your doctor may recommend medications and products that can aid your skin from healing:

  • Water-based treatments – your medical team will use different techniques like ultrasound mist therapy to clean and stimulate the wound tissues.
  • Prevent dehydration through fluids – burns can cause dehydration or/and organ failure, and to reduce your risks, you will need intravenous (IV) fluids.
  • Medications for pain and anxiety – burns which are classified as second-degree and third-degree can be painful during the healing process. Your doctor may prescribe you some morphine and anti-anxiety medications.
  • Creams and ointments – most treatments that were done at home will need creams and ointments such as bacitracin and silver sulfadiazine. These products will help in preventing infection and closing the wound.
  • Dressings – if you have large wounds, your team will require to clean and to dress is regularly until the wound heals.
  • Drugs to prevent infection – there are cases where the patient develops an infection. If this happens, the doctor will recommend antibiotics to relieve the infection.
  • Tetanus shot – sometimes, this shot is necessary after a burn injury. But assessment will still be done before you get a tetanus shot.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Burns that cover a large area of your body, especially those that cover your joints, can bring difficulty with your daily life. It can stop you from doing your usual tasks and other responsibilities. This is why burn treatment may include physical or occupational therapy. They will help in stretching your skin so your joints will stay flexible. Other exercises can also be done to improve the strength and coordination of the muscles. 

Surgical and Other Procedures

Some patients under this condition may undergo one or more of these procedures:

  • Breathing assistance – when your burns are located on the face or neck, there is a high chance that your throat will swell shut. This condition will require the insertion of a tube down your windpipe or trachea so you can maintain the oxygen supply to your lungs.
  • Feeding tube – when your burn causes difficulty with eating, you will need a feeding tube that will be inserted in your nose, and it will reach your stomach.
  • Ease blood flow around the wound – some wounds or burns can tighten and cut off the circulation of blood. This is called a burn scab or eschar. When this happens, your doctor will need to cut the eschar so the blood flow will become normal.
  • Skin grafts – this is a surgical procedure which is designed for patients who have severe burns. Skin grafts are done by using your healthy skin as a replacement to the scarred tissues. If using your skin is not possible, skin can be extracted from deceased donors or pigs as a temporary solution.
  • Plastic surgery – this surgery can improve the appearance of the burnt skin.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Minor burns can be treated at home. If you don’t intend to seek help from a doctor, you can follow these tips to restore your burnt skin:

  • Coll the burn. You can choose to hold the burnt area and put it under running water or use a cool, wet compress to ease the pain. Remember to use cool water. Do not use cold water or put ice on your burns because it can cause further tissue damage.
  • Never break blisters. If you find blisters on your burnt area, you should never break them. Fluid-filled blisters will prevent infection. If they break naturally, you need to clean the area immediately with water and mild soap. Use an antibiotic ointment to treat the wound. But if you find rashes around the wounded area, stop using the antibacterial ointment.
  • Apply lotion. When your burns were cooled down, apply lotion or cream that contains moisturizer or aloe vera. Those products can provide relief and prevent drying.
  • Bandage the wound. Covering the wound is necessary to reduce the risk of infection. You can use a sterile gauze bandage and wrap the wound loosely so you will not feel pressure on your burnt skin. 
  • Take a pain reliever. If you cannot handle the pain of your burns, you can take a pain reliever to ease the suffering. Medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen can be purchased over-the-counter.

Regardless of the severity of your burns, you need to use moisturizer or sunscreen when your wound is completely healed.

How to Avoid Burns

Accidents happen everywhere. And as much as you prevent burns, it can happen anytime. But doing the necessary steps to prevent burns can be helpful.

Since most burns happen at home, and children are the most vulnerable to this, we should do the following to reduce the chances of burns:

  • Avoid the presence of children while cooking
  • Pot handles must be turned toward the back of the stove
  • A fire extinguisher must be placed near the kitchen
  • Test your smoke detector every month and replace it every ten years
  • Always measure the temperature of bathwater before using it
  • Matches and lighters must be kept away from the children
  • Cover your electrical outlet
  • Replace electrical cords that have exposed wires
  • Use chemicals with caution and always wear your gloves when using it
  • Avoid the peak sunlight and use sunscreen daily

A fire escape plan is also a must for every home. Practice it with your family once a month so that you are all aware of what to do when a fire happens in your house.

When to Seek Medical Attention

These are the signs that you will need to call your doctor and seek medical attention:

  • Your burns are covering a large area of the body
  • You have deep burns or burns that reached all the skin layers or deeper tissues
  • Your burns cause a leathery look in your skin
  • Your burns were caused by electricity or chemicals
  • You experience difficulty with breathing due to burns in the airway
  • You see symptoms of infection like redness, increased pain, swelling or oozing from the wound
  • You see large burns or blisters that don’t heal after two weeks
  • Significant scarring

The most common burns will not cause any serious complications to a person. But if your condition is a serious one, you need to seek medical attention immediately to avoid and prevent the possible complications.