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If you or someone you’re with sustains a burn injury, you will need to consider a number of factors that will help you treat the burn. As a general rule, you should call a doctor immediately if you suspect it is greater than a first-degree burn. Your doctor may ask you a few questions to determine if an emergency room visit is necessary. Use these guidelines to assess the severity of the burn injury:

  • What is the source of the burn? A minor burn caused by nuclear radiation is more severe than a burn caused by thermal sources. Chemical burns are dangerous because the chemical may still be on the skin.

  • What body regions are burned? Burns to the face are more severe because they could affect airway management or the eyes. Burns to hands and feet are also of special concern because they could impede movement of fingers and toes.

  • What is the degree of the burn? The degree of the burn is important because it could cause infection of exposed tissues and permit invasion of the circulatory system.

  • What is the extent of burned surface areas? It is important to know the percentage of the amount of the skin surface involved in the burn. The adult body is divided into regions, each of which represents nine percent of the total body surface. These regions are the head and neck, each upper limb, the chest, the abdomen, the upper back, the lower back and buttocks, the front of each lower limb, and the back of each lower limb. This makes up 99 percent of the human body. The remaining one percent is the genital area. With an infant or small child, more emphasis is placed on the head and trunk.

  • What is the age of burn victim? This is important because small children and senior citizens usually have more severe reactions to burns and different healing processes.

  • Are there any pre-existing physical or mental conditions? Burn victims with respiratory illnesses, heart disorders, diabetes or kidney disease are in greater jeopardy than normally healthy people.

*The above descriptions are only outlines of major burn characteristics. You should not attempt to diagnose the severity of a burn on your own. Prompt medical attention can be important in minimizing pain and promoting faster recovery. In severe burn cases, prompt attention may save lives.

Burn Injuries & Trauma / Shock
Causes of Burn Injury
Methods of Burn Injury
Degrees of Burn Injury
How to Determine Severity of a Burn

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