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Burns: when emergency care is necessary


How burns are classified and how they can be treated according to their severity


 Burns are one of the most common causes of accidental injuries worldwide, especially among children and elderly. They can be caused by heat (such as fire, hot liquids and hot objects), chemicals (such as lye and other caustic substances contained in household products), sunlight, electricity and radiation.


Regardless of the cause, burn severity can range from minor to severe, depending on the depth of tissue damage and the percentage of the body surface that has been burned. In this respect, burns are generally classified as first, second or third-degree burns.


First degree burns

First-degree burns are the most superficial and benign, as well as the most common of all burns. They are characterized by redness, mild swelling and pain. These burns do not cause complications and heal without scarring.


Second degree burns

Second-degree burns are deeper than first-degree burns and extend into the middle layer of the skin. They are characterized by redness, swelling, pain and blisters which are usually filled with a clear fluid. Generally these burns do not cause complications, but heal more slowly than first-degree burns. Healing can cause scarring to occur or not, depending on burn depth and extent.


Third degree burns

Third-degree burns damage all layers of the skin and tissues underneath, including hair follicles, sweat glands and nerve endings. They are characterized by a white, black or bright red surface and they usually do not cause pain because nerve endings have been destroyed. The severity of all third-degree burns is moderate or more often severe. These burns always heal with scarring and, when depth and extension are considerable, they can cause serious complications such as infection, dehydration, shock and even death.


Burns and treatment*

Treatment varies depending on burn severity. Minor burns, including first-degree burns as well as second-degree burns that are no larger than 5 centimeters in diameter, can be treated by immersing the burned area in cool water to reduce swelling and pain, carefully cleaning the burn and covering it with a sterile gauze to prevent infection. However this is just a first-aid. Although minor burns often heal only with this treatment, consulting with a doctor is always important, because he can determine the real severity of the burn and can prescribe some medications that can help relieve pain and prevent infection. 


Severe burns always require emergency medical attention. They include all third-degree burns, second-degree burns that are larger than 5 centimeters in diameter, as well as all burns involving genitals, a major joint or substantial portions of the face, hands or feet. These burns are generally treated with antibiotic creams and often require skin grafting to cover and protect the burned area and stimulate healing. Because the healing of deep burns involving the joints can lead to immobility caused by scarring, it is important that patients with such burns receive physical therapy to gradually improve joint function and prevent disability.

 In any case, burns may require hospitalization and/or frequent re-examinations by the doctor to monitor the progression of healing. That's why any International Health Insurance plan should also cover burns.

 Because of the potential risks of burns, especially with children we advise to choose an relevant international health insurance plan in case an accident occurs.

If you wish to receive a free quotation, please contact one of our trained staff.

*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.