Burn Awareness Week is observed each year during the first full week in February. From February 5-11, 2017, fire and safety educators across the United States will be conducting presentations, workshops, and other events designed to increase knowledge of burn risks and educate the public on the appropriate first aid for a burn victim.
Burns are a common, yet often overlooked, health hazard. Consider the following statistics:
- In the United States, over one million people per year seek medical attention for burns. About 50,000 of these victims require hospitalization, with 25,000 sustaining burns covering 25% or more of their body.
- Approximately 4,500 people die in the United States each year from burn injuries. However, another 10,000 die from burn-related infections and other medical complications.
- Children are more susceptible to burns than adults, due to their smaller size, still developing bodies, and propensity to underestimate dangerous situations. In the United States, about 15,000 children require hospitalization for burn injuries each year. Of these children, about 1,100 die from these injuries.
- Men are dramatically more likely to suffer burn injuries. This is likely due to their tendency to be involved in more dangerous professions and to engage in riskier recreational behaviors.
- About 46% of burn injuries are caused by fire or flame; 32% are from hot liquids; and 8% are classified as thermal burns from hot objects such as ovens and irons.
Diagnosing and Treating Burns
Burns can occur while cooking or camping, during a house fire, or after a car accident. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the burn, medical professionals group burns into three categories:
- First-degree burns. Most burns fall into this category and are sometimes referred to as superficial burns because they don't cause permanent damage. First-degree burns are red, painful, and may swell. After a few days, the skin often starts to peel. First-degree burns can be soaked in cool water to reduce swelling, then treated with an antibiotic ointment and bandaged to prevent infection. Healing should occur within about 10 days.
- Second-degree burns. Burns with blisters and extremely red or splotchy skin are classified as second-degree burns. These burns are treated in the same manner as first-degree burns, but it's recommended that you check with your doctor to make sure you're up to date on your tetanus shots due to the increased risk of infection. The majority of second-degree burns heal within two to three weeks.
- Third-degree burns. After a third-degree burn, skin takes on a white or charred appearance. Although this is the most serious type of burn, it isn’t extremely painful because the burn has damaged nerves and surrounding tissue. Third-degree burns should be covered with a cool, wet cloth until the victim can receive medical attention. Never apply ointment or try to soak the burn in water. There is no set timeline for healing with third-degree burns.
Scarring is most common with second- and third-degree burns. The risk of scarring is highest when the victim picks or pops blisters on the skin, since this slows the healing process and increases the risk of infection.
Scars are permanent, but regular use of scar treatment products can help improve their appearance, and special makeup can be used to conceal scars on the face or other exposed areas. Skin grafts and other types of cosmetic surgery provide other options in the case of severe scarring. However, these procedures can involve substantial medical costs for the burn victim.
All burns will itch as they heal. Burned skin is also very sensitive to sunlight, so it's important to be diligent about using sunscreen during the recovery period.
Seeking Compensation for Burns
If you've sustained burns caused by another party's negligence or lost a loved one due to severe burn injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Neblett, Beard & Arsenault to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation regarding your personal injury or wrongful death claim.