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How Can I Tell If a Burn Injury Requires Medical Treatment?

Robert F. Spohrer

There are few injuries more painful and traumatizing than a severe burn. While these injuries used to have a higher fatality rate, modern medicine has significantly improved the survival odds for those who endure burns, with up to 96% of all victims living after their accidents.

According to the American Burn Association (ABA), however, burn injuries are still a leading cause of unintentional death, injury, and disfigurement in the United States. Because burn injuries continue to cause at least 40,000 hospitalizations every year, the ABA has designated the first week of February as National Burn Awareness Week, to inform the public about fire and burn safety hazards as well as medical treatment options.

If you’re ever unsure about seeking medical treatment for your burn injuries, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor just in case – especially if negligence played any role in the accident that caused your injuries. Taking prompt action after a burn could ensure a faster recovery time and even save your life.

What Are the Four Degrees of a Burn?

Burn injuries can range from very minor to life-threatening. Because of this wide variation, doctors categorize burns according to the “degree” of their severity and will recommend different treatment approaches depending on that degree. It’s easy to tell when a burn is extremely severe – but even moderate burns can lead to complications when treated incorrectly.

You can identify each of the four degrees with these signs:

  • First-degree burn. Almost everyone has sustained a first-degree burn at some point in their lives. With a first-degree burn, only the outer layer of the skin is damaged and the skin will appear red. Mild sunburns and small cooking burns fall into this category.
  • Second-degree burn. With a second-degree burn, both the skin and the dermis underneath it become damaged. The skin will appear bright red and shiny, and it’s possible to develop blisters and scarring. This is also called a “partial-thickness burn.”
  • Third-degree burn. Also known as a “full-thickness burn,” third-degree burn injuries always require medical care, as the burn destroys two full layers of the skin and any nerve endings. Due to charring, the affected skin will look brown, black, yellow, or white rather than red.
  • Fourth-degree burn. The most severe type of burn, fourth-degree burn injuries require immediate hospitalization. In addition to destroying both layers of skin, the burn may destroy muscles, bones, and tendons.

When Should I See a Doctor for a Burn Injury?

In most cases, a first- or second-degree burn injury will heal within a matter of days or weeks. By keeping the wound clean, cool, and dry, you may be able to prevent infection and avoid a trip to the hospital. However, there are some cases where you will need to visit a doctor regardless of the burn degree.

Here are some signs that you need to seek professional medical help for a burn:

  • Your burn blisters appear cloudy.
  • Your burn is longer than 3 inches in diameter in any direction.
  • You develop a fever or notice oozing around the burn.
  • Your skin looks dry, leathery, and charred in any way.
  • Your hands, feet, face, groin, or buttocks have been burned.
  • Your burn takes longer than 2 weeks to heal.

Dedicated Legal Assistance After a Serious Burn

At Spohrer Dodd, our injury attorneys have 150 years of combined experience helping burn victims seek justice after home and workplace accidents. Burns are a form of catastrophic injury that can be expensive and painful to treat, especially if you become hospitalized or require skin grafts. By filing a burn injury claim, you may be able to get fair compensation from the party responsible for your injuries and begin the path to recovery.

Do you need to speak with a qualified personal injury attorney? Call (904) 637-7721 today.