by Amy Scholten, MPH
A burn is damage to the skin and sometimes to the underlying tissues. Burns can range from mild to severe. Some are fatal.
There are four main types of burns:
Burns can be caused by:
Burns are more common in males, children, and older adults. Other things that raise the risk are:
Burn symptoms and signs vary. It depends on the type of burn.
First Degree Burn
Second Degree Burn
Third and Fourth Degree Burn
The doctor will check your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Testing is based on how severe the burn is. Tests may include:
Burns needs to be treated right away. Treatment depends on the severity and extent of the burn. The goal is to reduce damage to the tissues and prevent infection.
Minor burns are treated with first aid measures—such as cooling and covering the burn.
Serious burns need medical help right away. Treatment may include:
Most burns are from accidents. To reduce the risk:
American Burn Association
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Burn Survivors Community
Burns. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Accessed March 3, 2021.
First aid for burns: Parent FAQ. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/all-around/Pages/First-Aid-For-Burns.aspx. Accessed March 3, 2021.
Litt JS. Evaluation and management of the burn patient: a case study and review. Mo Med. 2018;115(5):443-446.
Major burns. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/major-burns. Accessed March 3, 2021.
Minor burns. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/minor-burns. Accessed March 3, 2021.
Protect the ones you love: burns. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/SafeChild/Fact_Sheets/Burns-Fact-Sheet-a.pdf. Accessed March 3, 2021.
Topical treatment and dressing of burns. EBSCO DynaMed. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/topical-treatment-and-dressing-of-burns. Accessed March 3, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 3/3/2021
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