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Types Of Burn Injuries

According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the most recent data available associated with burn injuries is from 2013, where there were 3,470 deaths and 15,925 injuries in the U.S. caused by fires. When looking at the numbers, these casualties were not equally distributed across the population. In fact, adults ages 80 to 84, had the highest risk of fire death; those 85 and older were at the greatest risk of fire injury. When compared to older children, children aged 4 and under faced an elevated risk of both injury and death in a fire. In terms of geography, the relative risk of dying in a fire for people living in the south was higher than for populations living in other regions [1]. As such burn injuries can occur on the job, in the home, or during leisure activities and—according to the USFA—has a high chance of occurring in Florida. Therefore, it is essential to understand how burn injuries occur due to a number of causes and their varying severity.

Types of Burns (Causes):

There are four main sources of burn summarized from The University of New Mexico;

  • Thermal- is caused by contact with flames, steam, hot water (or other hot liquids), and other sources of intense heat. Other ways to define thermal burns is by categorizing them into four separate classifications. It’s key to note that thermal burns often result from household (especially kitchen) accident, fires and auto accidents.
    • Flash burns consist of explosions of natural gas, propane, gasoline and other flammable liquids. These burns are comprised of intense heat for a very brief period of time. Clothing may be a protective barrier; however, it can also be dangerous if it is made out of flammable material and can ignite.
    • Flame burns are caused by that exposure to prolonged and intense heat. These burns are usually drawn from house fires, improper use of flammable liquids, automobile accidents, and can be ignited clothing from stoves and heaters.
    • Scald burns are caused by hot liquids. Water, oil, grease and tar are all examples of hot liquids that may cause these burns. In effect, water at 140 degrees F, creates a deep burn in 3 seconds, but at 156 degrees F, will cause the same injury in 1 second. (Coffee is 180 degrees F just brewed). Circumferential burns should raise suspicion of non-accidental trauma. Another example, such as tar, needs to be removed from the skin with either an adhesive remover solution or petroleum based dressing.
    • Contact burns- result from hot metals, plastics, glass or coals. These can be very deep.
  • Chemical- consists of strong acids or alkali substances that continue to cause damage until the agent is inactivated. Alkali substances usually cause more severe injury since they react with the lipids in the skin. Common sources of these burns are from acids and bases in bleach, ammonia, and other household cleaners (i.e., toilet bowl cleaner, drainage cleaner, swimming pool chemicals, oven cleaner, the removal of rust and metal cleaners).
  • Electrical- is caused by either AC or DC current. The current follows the path of least resistance and causes injury in areas other than the contact/entry site. These specific injuries cannot be judged from external surface alone. High voltage > 1,000 volts, low voltage < 1,000 volts and lightening. Electrical burns are from very high heat. These burns are a common workplace injury, occurring in construction sites, offices, restaurants, agricultural sites, and other places of employment.
  • Radiological- are caused by alpha, beta or gamma radiation. They may need to have some type of decontamination done to stop the injury [2]. The most common type of radiation burn are sunburns. On the other hand, x-rays and radiation therapy can also cause injury, in which cause the patient may be eligible to file medical malpractice charges.

Types of Burns (Severity):

After learning about the different causes of a burn, the next and a crucial part of understanding types of burns is to determine how to treat the injury by knowing the extent of the damage. Burn injuries are categorized as first, second and third-degree burns, with third-degree burns being the most severe. Determining burn depth is important. Things to consider when attempting to figure out the extent of the damage is the temperature, mechanism, duration of contact, blood flow to the skin and anatomic location of the burn. Epidermal depth varies with body surface, which can offer varying degrees of thermal protection. From the information above, we learned that the elderly and young children have the most injuries in terms of burns; this is because older adults and young kids have thinner skin. With this information in mind, reviewing the different degrees of burns in terms of definition can help medical professionals determine the severity of the issue based on your own knowledge.

  • First Degree- includes only the outer layer of skin which is called the epidermis. The skin usually turns a bright red and can be very painful. To compare, it’s equivalent to a superficial sunburn without the blisters. These burns are typically try on appearance and hospitalization would only be necessary for pain control and maybe fluid imbalance; healing usually occurs in 3 to 5 days. The injured outer layer of skin (epithelium) peels away from the healthy skin.
  • Second Degree- involves the entire epidermis and upper layers of the dermis. This type of wound will be pink, red in color, painful and appears to be wet. Sensation may be present but usually it’s diminished. The first layer of skin is burned through, and the second layer is affected but not completely destroyed. This type of wound should heal in several weeks or 10 to 21 days without grafting and scarring is minimal.
  • Third Degree- involves all layers of the skin. These layers are destroyed and the damage extends into the subcutaneous tissues. Areas may appear black or white and will be dry. They may be leathery in texture and can be very painful. However, in severe cases, the nerve endings may be numbed [2].

Other symptoms depend on the severity of the burn, the muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and respiratory system may be damaged, harming the body’s fluid/electrolyte balance, body temperature, joint function, and dexterity. Burn injuries may lead to visible scarring, which in itself, can cause great emotional and psychological trauma. Many individuals who survive a fire also suffer inhalation injuries from breathing in heat, smoke and toxic gases [3].

Dolman Law Group

The information within this article is essential for victims of burn injuries as well as everyone else with the potential of being in such a hazardous situation. If you or someone you know has suffered from a severe burn injury as a result of another person’s negligence or reckless behavior, a personal injury attorney can help. We at the Dolman Law Group can help victims recover compensation from the person responsible for the injury if it can be shown that he or she acted negligently or with a malicious indifference for the safety of others. It is crucial to seek legal counsel from an experienced and aggressive team of attorneys if there is a burn injury evident. With such an arsenal on your side, we can provide you with invaluable leverage and the resources needed to obtain the full measure of compensation to which you are entitled to. Call our offices today for a free scheduled evaluation and consultation. Our number is (727) 451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900



[1] https://www.usfa.fema.gov/data/statistics/reports.html
[2] http://hospitals.unm.edu/burn/types.shtml
[3] http://www.lawyershop.com/practice-areas/personal-injury/catastrophic-injuries/burn-injury