Burns are among the most excruciating injuries. According to StatPearls, about 500,000 Americans each year receive treatment for burns.
House fires, car crashes and on-the-job accidents are the most common causes of burns, outside of those sustained by service members in combat.
In motor vehicle accidents, burn injuries often occur in conjunction with other severe injuries. It is important for providers not to overlook the possibility of serious conditions and complications of burns while treating broken bones, head trauma and other medical emergencies. For example, an adult with a burn that covers 15% of the body’s surface area will need fluid resuscitation to prevent renal failure and other fatal events.
The Mayo Clinic notes that other serious complications of deep burns or those covering a significant portion of the body surface include the following:
- Bacterial and bloodstream infection
- Breathing problems from smoke or heat damage to airways
- Excessive scarring that affects mobility
Generally, only second- and third-degree burns are likely to cause these and other complications.
First-degree burns affect the outer layer of skin and may be quite painful, but they typically do not cause permanent harm. Second-degree burn damage extends to the second layer of skin. Swelling, redness and blisters are common, and infection may become an issue. Third-degree burns affect structures beneath the skin. If nerves sustain damage, the injured person may not feel the pain of the burn. Skin may look white, black or brown, or have a leathery appearance.
If the source of the burn is a chemical or electricity, the injured person should seek medical attention regardless of the appearance of the injury.