Editorial Staff and Contributors
A burn is damage to the skin and sometimes to the underlying tissues. Burns are categorized according to the depth and extent of the damage to the skin:
Burns can be caused by:
Burns are more common in males, and in those aged under 4 years. Other factors that may increase the chance of burns include:
Burn symptoms and signs vary depending on the type of burn.
The doctor will ask how the burn occurred and will examine the burned area.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the burn, how deep the burn is, and how much of the body the burn covers. Doctors have methods and charts to estimate the total percentage of body surface area (TBSA) affected by the injury. This estimate is age dependent. For example, the head represents a larger percentage of surface area in a baby than in an adult.
Quick treatment is important and can lessen the damage to the tissues. First aid for minor burns may involve:
Once a minor burn is completely cooled, you can consider using a fragrance-free lotion or moisturizer to prevent drying and make the area more comfortable.
For more serious burns, like deep partial-thickness or full-thickness burns, seek medical attention or call emergency medical services. Until an emergency unit arrives:
A doctor will decide if hospitalization is necessary based on many factors. These include age, the cause of the burn, and the extent and depth of the burn. Reasons to hospitalize a person who has more than a minor burn may include:
If the burn is serious, the following treatments may be administered in a hospital:
Most burns are the result of accidents. To help reduce the chance of burns:
American Burn Association
National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health
Canadian Burn Survivors Community
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Last reviewed December 2014 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
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