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How Can You Determine the Severity of a Burn?

We all try to avoid burns in daily life, but the risks are always there, and eventually burns are inevitable — especially if you have a big family. Knowing all of the possible places around the house (and out in the world) where burns can take place, and having a good safety strategy around those areas, is the best way to minimize burn incidents. The most common cause of burns is obviously carelessness around cooking surfaces like stovetops, ovens, grills, toasters, and so forth. But radiators, hot water pipes, and other aspects of the home can also cause burns.

In fact, there are enough burn risks in daily life to assume that eventually, you or someone in your family will sustain a burn. Thankfully, most of these incidents are very minor, and in most cases a visit to urgent care is not even necessary. But there is a whole spectrum of severity in terms of burns, and it’s not always easy to tell how severe a burn actually is. So when you or someone in your home sustains a burn injury, how can you get an idea of the severity?

First, it’s good to review the different types of burns. A first-degree burn is on the surface, and the skin essentially remains intact. You don’t have to worry about infection or fluid loss, and in many cases, the burn is so minor that you don’t need anything more than burn ointment from the pharmacy. A second-degree burn has cased damage to the outer layer of the skin, and also has affected the second layer of skin beneath the surface. A third-degree (also known as full-thickness) burn goes clear through to the fatty tissue, and sometimes the muscle. This is a very serious burn.

So far, we’ve talked about the depth of the burn. When we talk about the width of a burn, we’re referring to the surface area of the body on which the burn occurs. Width is really only used to assess second- and third-degree burns.

When a second-degree burn covers more than 10% of the body, the situation is generally considered to be critical, and the patient should be transferred to the emergency room as soon as possible. Any Third-degree burn is critical, no matter the width of the burn.

It’s also important to note that if a burn (second-degree or worse) occurs on the face or genitals — or if it covers the hands and feet — it’s considered critical no matter the width of the burn.

Using this understanding of burns and how they are classified by the medical community, you should have a much better idea of whether a burn warrants medical attention. Pain and discomfort are also a good indicator. If a burn doesn’t seem serious enough for a trip to the emergency room, take a trip to Family First Urgent Care, and be seen by an experienced provider with a short wait time. Keep in mind Family First locations in either Oakhurst or Toms River and remember the fastest way to get there, in case of burns or other non-life-threatening medical emergencies. With proper safety practices and knowledge, it’s possible to avoid most common burn injuries.

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