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Last updated: March 25, 2019

What Does Burn Mean?

A burn is an injury of any organ, but usually occurs on skin or in airways and are mainly caused by heat. A heat burn is referred to as a thermal burn, as opposed to a chemical burn, friction burn, etc.. Thermal burns are most common and occur when skin comes in contact with flames, hot metals, liquids or steam caused by fire, road and industrial accidents, heaters, irons and kitchen accidents. Airway burns can be caused by inhaling smoke or steam and superheated air and toxic fumes.

Burns may also be caused by extreme cold, sunlight, chemicals, electric sparks, gas, explosion, friction, rays, radiation or lightning.

Safeopedia Explains Burn

Burn causes painful reddening and swelling of the skin. The level of damage depends on the location, depth and total skin area affected. There are three degrees of burns:

  • First degree burn - results in superficial inflammation of the skin area. Its symptoms include pain, redness, mild swelling and is tender to touch

  • Second degree burn - deeper inflammation of the skin with pain, redness and blistering of the skin

  • Third degree burn - deeper inflammation in all layers of the skin, nerves and blood vessels are badly damaged. Skin affected by third degree burns appear white, leathery and lesser pain compared to other two degrees

Inflammation and fluid accumulation occur in the wound in all degrees of burns. Risk of infection exists as burns cause a break in the skin. Since the epidermis (top layer of the skin) regenerates itself, only first degree burns fully heal. Second and third degree burns may cause permanent injury and scar on the affected skin area.


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