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How to identify different types of burn injuries

Burns happen so quickly. Picture: Pexels Teona Swift

Burns happen so quickly. Picture: Pexels Teona Swift

Published Aug 31, 2023


As news of Joburg’s CBD fire in Marshalltown intensified, many of the injured were treated for smoke inhalation and various other injuries, including burns.

Like all accidents, burns happen quickly and depending on the severity thereof, it can leave varying degrees of scaring.

According to Web MD, thermal burns are the most common kind of burns.

These burns happen when flames, hot metals, scalding liquids, or steam come into contact with the skin.

Medical practitioners classify burns by degrees of severity.

These burn degrees include the following:

First-degree burns, like sunburn, are mild. The top layer of skin (epidermis) usually turns red and is painful but doesn’t typically blister.

Second-degree burns affect the skin’s top and lower layers (dermis). You may experience pain, redness, swelling and blistering.

Third-degree burns affect all three skin layers: epidermis, dermis and fat. The burn also destroys hair follicles and sweat glands.

Because third-degree burns damage nerve endings, you probably won’t feel pain in the area of the burn itself, but rather adjacent to it. Burned skin may be black, white or red with a leathery appearance.

Fourth-degree burns go even deeper than third-degree burns and can affect your muscles and bones. Nerve endings are also damaged or destroyed, so there’s no feeling in the burned area.

Here’s how different degrees of burns should be treated:

First-degree burns can usually be treated with skincare products like aloe vera cream or an antibiotic ointment and pain medication.

Second-degree burns may be treated with an antibiotic cream or other creams or ointments prescribed by a doctor.

Third-degree and fourth-degree burns may need more intensive treatments such as intravenous (IV) antibiotics to prevent infection or IV fluids to replace fluids lost when skin is burned. They may also need skin grafting or the use of synthetic skin.

If you are not sure what kind of burn it is, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor.