Although many people see burn injuries as mostly a cosmetic problem, burn injuries in fact cause about 300 000 fatalities worldwide and about 4000 fatalities in America each year. In the United States, burn injuries are the third cause of death by accident. Often, burn injuries become fatal when a burn affects major organs after penetrating through the skin and tissue. As well, millions of people are seriously or permanently injured each year around the world by burn injuries. Often, serious and permanent injuries occur when burn damage goes deep beyond the first few layers of skin, permanently injuring muscle and other tissue. This can cause loss of feeling as well as loss of mobility.
Burn injuries can occur a number of ways. Car and truck accidents are a common cause of burn injuries, since vehicles colliding can cause enough force to cause an explosion. As well, many vehicles contain significant amounts of flammable materials (such as gasoline) which can easily ignite in a collision. At home, children are the most likely victims of burn injuries caused by fire, hot water, and even chemicals. Workers compensation claims are filled with incidents of burn injuries caused by electrical problems, workplace accidents, and other situations.
Burns vary widely, from fatal to barely noticeable. How severe a burn injury is depends mainly on two things: how long the burn lasts and how hot the skin is heated. A very hot fire (caused by a chemical fire, for example), can heat the skin to a higher temperature and therefore cause more damage. If a victim does not receive immediate help in extinguishing the flames and the burn continues second after second, the injuries get more severe as time passes.
In addition, the severity of a burn is affected by where on the skin the injury takes place. Different parts of the body are more vulnerable and may be less or more protected. For example, a burn on the arm may be more survivable than a burn to the face or head. On the head, the hair can easily ignite, causing a longer and hotter burn. As well, the head contains many critical systems and organs which can become damaged by a burn injury.
When a doctor gets a burn injury patient, he or she will make a diagnosis about the severity of the burn based on how deeply the injury penetrates the skin. For mild burns, short-term treatment options such as bandages and antibiotics and bandages may be used. For more severe burns, short-term treatment may include pressure garments and escharectomies.
Long term treatment for burn injuries depends on the burn itself. In some cases, patients receive rehabilitative care to deal with loss of mobility. Many burn injury patients also receive skin grafts, which transplant skin from one area of the body to the burned area, helping the burned area heal or look more natural. Some patients use dermaplaning or dermabrasion to cosmetically treat the appearance of burn injury scars.