What Is a Burn?

A burn occurs when heat or thermal energy is inflicted on the skin and damages it. The amount of time the heat was applied will determine the severity and depth of the injury. Depending on the degree of the injury, most individuals can recover without severe health consequences. A more severe burn will require emergency medical care right away to prevent complications.

What Are the Degrees of Burn?

Burns can range from 1st to 4th degree. They can be broken down as:

  • 1st degree- The skin is red but not blistered such as a sunburn.
  • 2nd degree- This causes blisters and some thickening of the skin. Spilling hot coffee on the skin can cause this type of burn.
  • 3rd degree- This causes widespread thickening and a leathery, white appearance. Often the result of spilled hot oil or a house fire.
  • 4th degree- This is the most severe and burns down to the muscle and bone.

What Will the Doctor Do?

Depending on the nature and severity of the burned area, treatment will usually involve:

  • Delicate cleaning of the burned areas.
  • Blisters will be cared for with either debridement or by leaving them intact. Blisters on the bottom of the feet or palms will typically be left intact.
  • Depending on the extent of the burn, fluids to be taken by mouth or administered through an IV will be ordered.

Additionally, if the burn is very severe the doctor may recommend that care is continued at a Burn Center. The doctor may also use the following medications:

  • A topical antibiotic ointment can be applied to the burn. This is typically a triple antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin, Bacitracin, or Silvadene.
  • Pain medication – The doctor may recommend ibuprofen or acetaminophen if the burn is minor and the pain is mild. If the pain is severe, the doctor will typically prescribe a narcotic pain reliever including Tylenol with codeine or hydrocodone.
  • Tetanus update will also usually be recommended.

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