Burns are damage to your body’s tissues. The most common causes are heat and sunlight, though chemicals, electricity and radiation can also cause severe damage.
Burns can be first, second or third-degree, going from least to most serious. Burns are one of the leading causes of childhood injury.
A third-degree burn will injure every layer of your skin. Your muscle, fat, major organs and even bones may be affected.
If you have chemical, electrical, severe radiation or third-degree burns, call 911 immediately.
What are symptoms of severe burns?
Any burn that destroys the deeper layers of your skin is severe. Seek medical attention to clean the wound and keep the body hydrated.
In serious cases, burns can cause shock and even death. If a minor burn shows any of the following symptoms, seek medical care:
- Excessive swelling
- Blistering filled with greenish or brownish fluid
- Foul-smelling drainage
- A burn that doesn’t heal in 10 days to two weeks
As they are openings in the skin, burns are very prone to infection. Your burn may be infected if it has any of these symptoms:
- Change in color in the burned area or surrounding skin
- Purple coloring, especially if swelling is also present
- Burn extends deeper into the skin
- Green discharge or pus
How are burns treated?
If you have serious burns, seek medical care immediately. Minor burns can usually be treated at home. These are usually household burns, or burns caused by heat or sunshine.
Do not use ice, butter or grease on burns. Never break the blisters over a burn.
Minor burns caused by heat can be treated by:
- Removing the heat source and any burned clothing (unless embedded in the burn)
- Soaking in cool–not cold–water to pull the heat away from the burned skin
- Applying a cool compress until the pain subsides
- Using antibiotic cream and a clean bandage
- Using a skin product that heals skin, like aloe vera
- Taking mild pain relievers to help with pain and swelling
- Staying hydrated to prevent dehydration
If you have chemical burns, call 911 immediately. While waiting, you can:
- Brush off dry chemicals while wearing gloves
- Remove clothing and jewelry and rinse off chemicals in the shower for 15-20 minutes
- Flush wet chemicals with cool running water for 20 minutes or until emergency help arrives
Minor electrical burns can be treated by:
- Applying a cool compress
- Applying a mild antibiotic ointment
- Applying a clean bandage
If you have chemical, electrical, radiation or third-degree burns, seek emergency medical care. If your burns aren’t healing, show signs of infection or if you need help healing the skin, visit the nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic.
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