Signs of skin burns
Burns have typical and atypical patterns. Typical patterns result from accidental burns while atypical patterns may be a sign of physical abuse. Typical burns (from spilling hot liquid, for example) tend to occur in exposed areas such as the arms, face, and neck. Atypical burns may occur in unexposed areas such as the buttocks. Burns involving entire hands and feet are also not typical, nor are third-degree burns involving a very small, focused area.
Symptoms of skin burns
Signs and symptoms of burns differ depending on the severity of the burn. However, the degree of pain a person experiences from a skin burn is not related to the severity of the burn: the most serious burns can be painless because the nerves that supply pain sensation are destroyed. In severe or widespread burns, the skin loses fluid and dehydration can occur. The appearance and symptoms of deep burns can further worsen during the first hours or even days after the burn. Main symptoms of burns include:
Symptoms of airway burns
Symptoms of an airway burn include:
Minor burns are usually superficial and do not cause complications.The deeper and more extensive the burn, the more severe are the problems it tends to cause. For example, deep second-degree and third-degree burns swell and take more time to heal.In general, young children and older adults tend to be more seriously affected by complications of skin burns.
Some moderate burns can cause serious complications due to extensive fluid loss and tissue damage.These complications may take hours or days to develop. Severe surface burns may penetrate to deeper body structures, such as fat, muscle, or bone.In addition, damaged skin and other body surfaces are easily infected because they can no longer act as a barrier against invading microorganisms. The following are some complications of some moderate and severe burns:
Chemical imbalances - Chemical imbalances in the body can result from extensive burns.
Dehydration - Dehydration eventually develops with widespread burns and can sometimes lead to life threatening shock.
Destruction of muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis) - Muscle damage sometimes occurs with deep third-degree burns. The muscle tissue releases myoglobin, one of the muscle's proteins, into the blood. If present in high concentrations, myoglobin harms the kidneys.
Eschars - Deep third-degree burns can develops eschars, thick, crusty surfaces, which become too tight, cutting off blood supply to healthy tissues or impairing breathing.
Infection – People who get burned are very prone to infection. Sometimes the infection can spread throughout the bloodstream and cause severe illness or death.
Restriction of movement - Deeper burns can cause scar tissue which shrinks as it heals. If the scarring occurs in a limb or digit, the resulting contracture may restrict movement of nearby joints.
When to seek help
In cases of non-emergency burns, call a doctor if pain is still present after 48 hours. Children, elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system (for example, HIV) should be seen right away. Burns that cover a significant portion of the body, burns associated with smoke inhalation, burns from electrical injuries, and burns associated with suspected physical abuse require immediate emergency medical attention.
Call 911 in cases of burns if:
Also call a doctor immediately if signs of dehydration are present after a burn: thirst, dry skin, dizziness, light-headedness, or decreased urination. Furthermore, any change in the appearance of a burn, or in the way that the person feels, should be brought to the attention of a doctor. Potential signs of infection include:
If pain from a burn increases after 48 hours, see a doctor. This way, s/he can make a proper diagnosis to prevent complications such as infection. To learn more about how your doctor will make the diagnosis, read the next section on Diagnosing Burn Injuries now.
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