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Burn Severity (Part I)

A burn is an injury to the tissue; it can be caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, radiation or friction.
Burns can be classified according to the depth of burn: first degree, second degree and third degree burns. It can also be classified into superficial partial thickness which is the first degree, deep partial thickness which is the second degree and the full thickness area which is the third degree burns.
The severity of burn is affected by many factors which are:

  1. The degree (depth) of burned area: first, second and third degree burn.
  2. The total body surface area (percentage) affected: burns are measured as a percentage of the total body surface area affected; one of the ways used is the rule of nines which divides the body into sections of 9 percent. This rule is adjusted for children and infants because they have a larger head and neck surface area and smaller limbs surface area.
  3. Location of burn: there are certain areas in the body that require special care when they are affected, if the face is affected there will be a risk of breathing problems because of swelling and inflammation. If the hands and feet are affected there is a risk of having limitation of movement because of scarring. If the perineum (the area of the body extending from the anus to the genitals) is affected, there is a risk of having contractures (tightening of skin) and infection. Circumferential burn (one that goes around a finger, toe, arm, leg, neck, or chest) is considered more severe than a non circumferential one because it can have a tourniquet effect on circulation or breathing (compress the vessels or airways). Eye burns are also important as they may cause blindness.
  4. The age of the person: toddler aged children have more damage to their skin than similar burns in older children and adults because they have thinner skin.
  5. Associated injuries like fractures or pre-existing medical conditions like heart conditions and immune suppression.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.