Also known as: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, third-degree burns

What are burns?

Burns are tissue damage to the body that occurs after exposure to extreme heat, though they can be caused by other sources (electricity and chemicals) as well. Burns are classified by position,  size, and by depth/severity or “degree”. First-degree burns damage only the outer layer of skin, while third-degree burns cause massive skin and tissue damage.

What causes burns?

Scalds from steam, hot tap water (particularly in bathtubs), cooking fluids, tipped-over coffee etc and contact with flames (playing with matches, lighters etc) are the commonest causes of burns in under 4year olds (electrical burns from fingers in electrical sockets etc are seen). In the over 5year old age group playing with fire and kitchen scalds are the commonest causes. In adolescents, playing with inflammable material (e.g. gasoline) and electrical burns are common. Chemical burns from swallowing or spilling chemicals also occur frequently.

What are the symptoms of burns?

A First degree burn is a painful red dry area without blisters, which generally heals within 3-6 days. A second degree burn involves skin layers that are deeper and causes blisters, severe pain and redness. Healing may take up to 21 days depending on severity. Third degree burns (full-thickness burns) are the most serious and involve all the layers of the skin plus underlying tissue. These burns are not generally painful (because of nerve damage) and look dry, brown or charred, can lead to fluid and protein loss and healing may require skin grafting. They can be life-threatening in severe instances. The severely damaged tissue is prone to infection.

What are burn care options?

Depending on the position of the burn, it's severity and size treatments will vary. Consult your Pediatrician or Nicklaus Children's Hospital surgical specialists for further information.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: October 03, 2019 04:38 PM