Thermal burns

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Thermal burns are considered as common injuries especially among children. In most cases, these burns are relatively mild, but some can be severe. This can occur by touching a hot pot on the stove or being sunburned while on the beach.

What are the causes?

  • Scald from hot liquids or steam
  • Direct exposure to a flame
  • Electrical burn
  • Contact with chemicals
  • Radiation burns

What are the signs?

Remember that all thermal burns can damage the different skin layers. The type of burn and its seriousness is based on the skin layers affected.

Thermal burns
For the superficial form, the affected area is reddened, painful and turns white if touched along with blister formation and mottling.

Superficial or 1st degree burn

Only the epidermis is affected, and the symptoms generally include reddened and the painful area turns white if touched without any blisters.

Partial thickness or 2nd degree burn

This involves the epidermis and part of the dermis. A burn can be categorized as superficial or deep depending on the amount of dermis affected.

For the superficial form, the affected area is reddened, painful and turns white if touched along with blister formation and mottling.

If the damage is serious, pain may or may not be present, dry or moist and may or may not turn white if touched.

Full thickness or 3rd degree burn

This is the most severe form which affects the entire epidermis and dermis. The blood vessels, nerve endings, sweat glands and hair follicles are destroyed. In severe cases, even the muscles and bones are affected.

The affected area is painless, dry, white or charred and appear leathery.

Remedies for thermal burns

The initial step is to stop the burning process.

  • Put down any flame or fire or remove any burning or hot clothing.
  • Cool the affected area with water for up to 30 minutes. This helps lessen the extent and seriousness of the burn. Place the affected finger or hand under cool flowing water for several minutes.

Pain control measures must be taken into consideration.

  • Place a cool damp compress to relieve the pain.
  • Provide a pain medication for pain relief.

For small-sized thermal burns, apply a triple antibiotic ointment to promote healing and lessen the possibility of infection. Any blisters should not be removed at home.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on thermal burns is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize the signs and how it is managed by taking a standard first aid course with Mississauga First Aid.

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