Burn Injury

Our skin performs important functions, including temperature regulation of our bodies, and skin injuries over a larger area can affect the ability to maintain control of temperature and fluid. Skin is made up of three primary layers – the outer “epidermis” layer, the “dermis” layer (made up of collagen and elastic fibers), where sweat glands and hair follicles reside, and a “hypodermis” layer (also known as subcutaneous tissue), where larger blood vessels and nerves are found. The greater a burn is, the deeper it will be and affect the different layers, and the amount of damage caused to a victim can depend on the location of the burn, and the amount of affected body surface area. Only the outer epidermis layer is able to regenerate itself. Therefore, burns that extend into deeper skin layers can cause permanent injury and scarring. Additionally the skin in that area may not return to normal function.

The skin helps to regulate the amount of fluid and temperature of the body and also acts as a protective barrier against bacteria and viruses that inhabit the world outside the body. When a burn occurs, it essentially acts as a break in the skin, leaving the skin vulnerable to infection. It also increases the risk of sepsis, a life threatening infection that travels through the bloodstream and affects the whole body, possibly causing shock and organ failure. Another complication of skin burns is the damage done to blood vessels and the disruption to fluid levels in the body. This can result in low blood volume, which prevents the heart from pumping enough blood to the body.

Burn Classification

There are three degrees of burn classifications. First degree burns are the most common. They are generally superficial burns with symptoms including location inflammation of the skin, pain, redness, and a mild amount of swelling. Second degree burns are deeper and usually result in blistering of the skin. Third degree burns are the deepest type. Due to the severity of third degree burns, the area of skin affected is subsequently killed, nerves and blood vessels damaged, and may appear white and leathery. This can cause permanent tissue damage and affect fat, muscle, and bone. Degree of burns can change in severity, with first and second degree burns evolving into second and third degree burns respectively.

As the percentage of burn surface area on the body increases, burn victims with greater than 50% burns on their body have a significant mortality risk. Burns to the face, nose, mouth or neck can cause enough inflammation and swelling to obstruct the airway and cause breathing problems. Burns to the chest area can also cause breathing areas and burns to arms, legs, finger, or toes can block blood flow throughout the body.

Skin Burn Sources

Burns can occur in a large variety of ways. The most common include:

  • Sunlight and ultraviolet light
  • Fire
  • Hot liquid or steam
  • Hot metal, glass, or objects
  • Electrical currents
  • Radiation
  • Chemicals
Different Types of Burns

While most people experience thermal and radiation burns from the sun, fire, or hot liquids, electrical and chemical burns are also dangerous and can cause lasting damage. The two also have different symptoms than sun, liquid and/or steam, and fire burns. Electrical burns are not always readily apparent as entry and exit points of electrical shock are not always easily found. Electricity typically flows more easily through tissues in the body, causing significant muscle damage, and releasing muscle fibers and chemicals into the bloodstream, causing electrolyte disturbances and kidney failure. Thermal and electrical burns can occur from a hot iron, fireplaces, barbeques, candles, portable space heaters, and electrical outlets.

Scald burns are the most common cause of burn injuries suffered by children.

Chemical Burns occur when chemicals are spilled onto the body and generate a reaction that causes heat. Chemical burns vary by their pH or acidity and the type of chemical involved. Some possible symptoms include bleaching or darkening of skin, burning sensations, tissue necrosis, and trouble breathing. Chemicals burns from chemicals that may be toxic should be treated with emergency assistance. The California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems and the California State Firefighters’ Association publish “Tips to Keep Your Children Safe from Home Fires”, which can help families protect children.

While many skin burns heal without the use of medical treatment, serious burns can cause lasting effects ranging from scarring, to psychological trauma and scarring. Secondary symptoms can also cause lasting health complications. Greg Brod of the Brod Law Firm has helped victims of burn injuries receive compensation for associated medical treatment, care, and damages for the pain associated with these serious injuries. Call the Brod Law Firm today, at (800) 427-7020, for a free consultation.

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