Serious Burn Injuries

Serious Burn Injuries

Serious Burn Injuries


Burns can be among the most painful and disfiguring of injuries, and each year, more than 3,000 Canadians are admitted to hospital due to serious burns. The most common cause of burns are hot substances such as hot water or other liquids, steam, or food. Many Canadians are burned because of hot-water heaters that are set too high. Children, in particular, are often burned by scalding hot bath water. Other major causes of burns include fire, hot surfaces, electricity, and chemicals such as acids. Sunburn and friction burn can also result in serious burns.


Doctors determine the severity of a burn based on how deep it goes and how much of the body it covers. Obviously, the skin is always affected, but in severe burns, the tissues underneath and the internal organs can also be affected. Severe burns can be life-threatening. Burns are categorized as first, second, third, or fourth degree:

  • First-degree burns are considered mild, and affect only the first layer of skin. These burns may swell and cause redness and pain, but they usually heal within a week.
  • There are two types of second-degree burns: superficial partial-thickness burns, which injure the first and second layers of skin, and partial-thickness burns which injure deeper skin layers. These burns cause blistering and open sores on the skin, and may take more than two weeks to heal. If you have a second-degree burn, you should see a doctor, and seek immediate medical help if the burn is on the face, hands, feet, genitals, buttocks, or on a major joint.
  • Third-degree burns are more serious; they damage all of the skin’s layers. The skin dies and has no sensation due to damage to the nerve endings. When a third-degree burn occurs, the victim should be taken to the hospital immediately; these burns can cause shock and death. They often require skin grafts in order to heal.
  • Fourth-degree burns are extremely serious, and pose the risk of death. These kinds of burn wounds can lead easily to infection. Repairing fourth-degree burns requires extensive skin grafts and surgery.


Treatment for Burns


If someone suffers a serious third-degree or fourth-degree burn, there are things you can do until medical help arrives:

  • Call 911. If the victim is not breathing or there is no sign of a pulse, perform CPR.
  • If it’s possible, elevate the burned area above the heart. You can cover the burns with a moist, cool, sterile bandage.

Don’t attempt to remove burned clothing. Don’t immerse severe burns in cold water.


People with severe burns may require various treatments once they arrive at hospital. These can include:

  • Receiving fluids intravenously
  • Being intubated to aid breathing
  • Bandages and/or antibiotic ointment
  • Antibiotic medication to prevent infection
  • Pain relief medication
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Tetanus vaccine
  • Removal of dead tissue
  • Skin graft operations, where skin is removed from one area of the body and transplanted to another


    Once the person has recovered somewhat, they may also receive:

  • Physical therapy, to help stretch the skin so that joints remain flexible.
  • Occupational therapy, to help you to relearn how to do daily tasks.
  • Elasticized pressure garments to help minimize scarring. These garments are usually custom-made, and may be worn for a year or more.
  • Scar massage.
  • Topical therapies.


Living with Severe Burns


Burns can have a large impact on the survivor’s life, physically and emotionally. Survivors may continue to suffer physical pain for a long time after the injury occurs. They may have to take time off work (or stop working altogether,) be unable to engage in the kinds of activities they formerly enjoyed, or even be unable to care for their families or themselves.


Scarring can cause a loss of mobility in necks, shoulders, hands, or legs; joint contractures can inhibit movement or impair function. Burn reconstruction surgery may be a good option for these problems. Usually after about a year of healing, tight scar tissue can released and the open area closed by a plastic surgeon; skin grafts, skin rearrangement, and skin donor flaps can be used, depending on the location of the scar.


Facial scarring can lead to a change in self-image and a loss of self-esteem, and these scars can often be helped with reconstructive burn surgery, too. Surgery is rarely able to remove scars completely, but it can often make them less noticeable.


Many burn victims find it useful to join a support group where they can connect with people who have experienced similar injuries; hospitals often run these groups. And of course, if you have been injured due to the negligence of another person or corporation, you should contact a personal injury law firm as soon as possible. A good personal injury lawyer will provide you with a free initial consultation to discuss your case and the options that exist for pursuing compensation. You may be eligible for damages for pain and suffering, loss of income, medical expenses, caregiver expenses, housekeeping expenses, and more. Call a personal injury law firm today, and learn more about filing a claim.