How Are Burn Injuries Diagnosed?
Last updated Monday, September 12th, 2022
Have you been burned – literally? These kinds of injuries are serious. Burns can cause pain, disfigurement and even death. Learning more about how these wounds are diagnosed can let you know what you’re up against.
Various elements help a specialist determine how bad a burn is. It’s important for patients to get needed assistance. Postponing care can stall healing and lead to permanent scarring. Once an identification is made, a treatment plan can be created.
Doctors often use the Wallace Rule of Nines to quickly see how much of the body has been burned. This information helps determine treatment. The head and neck represent nine percent. Both arms total 18 percent. Chest and belly represent 18 percent. The back makes up 18 percent. Both legs total 36 percent. Genitals equal one percent.
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What Are the Four Classifications of Burns?
These wounds can get labeled based on how deeply the burn has impacted skin. Classifications include:
- First-degree. These superficial burns only impact skin’s outer layer. Area is red and painful to touch. Long-term effects are unlikely.
- Second-degree. Both the epidermis and dermis are harmed. Blistering and swelling may be present in addition to redness and pain.
- Third-degree. The epidermis and dermis are ravaged. Subcutaneous tissue may also be hurt. A charring may be present. Coloring can appear blackened or white. Nerve endings are severely damaged.
- Fourth-degree. Skin and tissue are burned through. Muscle and bone may not have escaped this burn’s wrath. Nerve endings are most likely destroyed.
While there are four main types of burn classifications, a few more types exist. Fifth and sixth-degree burns are even more devastating and often prove fatal.
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What Type of Burns Are Typical?
Thermal burns are a common occurrence. These injuries can happen fairly easily and involve things around the home or workplace. Cooking, ironing, baking, grilling, and tending a fire are often to blame. When heat from flames and burning metal or other material contacts the skin, damage results. Steam and boiling liquid can cause scalding.
Children are especially at risk for thermal burns. Little ones have skin that burns easier than that of adults. Additionally, small children are usually in the home more often when kitchen activities happen, putting them at more risk. Scalding is of particular concern for children.
What Are the Typical Symptoms of a Burn Injury?
Symptoms of burns correspond to their degree. First-degree burns are the least agonizing. These injuries may be red, swollen and painful. In addition to those symptoms, second-degree burns have blisters. Victims of third-degree burns may feel no pain because nerve endings were so badly damaged.
What Complications Can Occur from a Burn Injury?
The road to healing from this type of trauma is tough enough if everything goes well. Burns make the body an easy mark for other issues. These complications can be devastating and actually prove fatal.
After getting severely burned, patients may go into shock. This response is supposed to aid the body but has the opposite effect. Oxygen supply levels become critically reduced. Organs and tissue suffer.
Infections are another threat. Sepsis is an example of a life-threatening infection that can plague burn victims.
Loss of fluids is a possibility. Dehydration must be combatted as the skin may not be able to keep fluids inside the body as it should. Hypothermia is also a threat, particularly because cold liquid may be given to patients to rehydrate them.
Some burn victims may have inhaled smoke and fumes. These patients may develop respiratory problems and need breathing treatments.
Individual organs may not function as they should. There are many types of specific organ injuries that could develop as a result of a severe burn.
Fractures, soft tissue injuries and scarring are complications as well. Skin may produce eschars, or thick scabs. These eschars can pull the skin too tightly, causing blood supply to be cut off.
What Treatments Are Used for Burns?
First-degree burns can usually be treated with prompt first-aid. When seeing a medical professional for more serious burns, treatment may include:
- Applying the right dressings over burns
- Getting fluids intravenously
- Skin graft surgery
- Taking prescribed drugs to prevent infection, fight pain and lessen anxiety
- Using specialized ointments