Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Four Degrees of Burn Injuries

Have you heard the trivia question asking what is the largest organ in the human body? The answer: skin! Your skin acts as your body’s natural protectant from infection, but burns are your skin’s natural predator. Because burn injuries completely destroy the affected cells, they are among the most serious, painful, and fatal injuries you can experience. If you or a loved one has experienced a burn injury, whether in a devastating fire, a workplace electrocution, or a chemical accident, it is important to seek help immediately, even if the burn seems minor.

The Four Types of Burn Injuries

People often assume that there are only three types of burn injuries, but there are actually four degrees of burn injuries. First-degree burns are among the most common, and they are classified as injuries that burn only the outer layer of your skin. Sunburn is the most common example of a first-degree burn injury, and for anyone who has experienced the heat of a Florida summer, you know what happens after a sunburn. The skin dies and begins to peel while a new layer of skin grows to take its place. Although first-degree burn injuries can be painful, with some antibiotic cream and care, you can recover from such without the need for medical intervention.

Second-degree burn injuries are those that burn down to the second layer of skin, which may cause oozing blisters. These types of burns are those you may experience if you accidentally touch a hot heating coil. Although second-degree burn injuries may also heal on their own, it may leave a scar, and if left untreated, second-degree burns may actually develop into third-degree burns.

Third-degree burns are classified as involving both layers of your skin as well as your underlying bones, muscles, and tendons. Your nerve endings and flesh will generally be destroyed if you experience a third-degree burn, and you must seek immediate medical attention for such. Depending on the scope of the burn injury, i.e., what percentage of your body is burned, such injuries may prove fatal.

Fourth-degree burn injuries are the most serious but are rare. These injuries occur when the burns extend through the skin, bones, and tendons and into the fat and muscle of your body. Due to the seriousness of such burns, immediate surgical intervention is generally necessary, and such injuries may prove fatal or result in life-altering disabilities. Serious car fires can result in such injuries.

The Most Dangerous Burn Injuries

Surprisingly, the most dangerous injury you can experience after a fire is not a burn injury, but rather a smoke inhalation injury, which is actually the leading cause of fire-related death. Such injuries occur when you inhale small smoke and fire particulars, and the danger is that the seriousness of the injury may not immediately manifest. In fact, some victims do not experience symptoms of smoke inhalation until 36 hours after exposure to fire particles. Injuries from

smoke inhalation typically occur from soot, asphyxiation, or toxicity from deadly carbon monoxide particles. If you were involved in a fire, you should monitor yourself for the following symptoms:
  • Cough;
  • Decreased breath sounds;
  • Wheezing; 
  • Retractions; 
  • Trouble breathing; and 
  • Dyspnea. 

One of the first injuries doctors treating you after a fire should check for is a smoke inhalation. If they fail to do so, you may have a claim for medical malpractice.

Infection After a Burn Injury

Second, third, and fourth-degree burn injuries are often the most fatal not because of the physical damage to your tissue, but due to the high risk of serious infection. If you experience any of the following symptoms, even with a first-degree burn, it is important to contact a doctor immediately:

  • The burn appears red and hot for an extended period of time; 
  • Change in the color of the burnt area and/or surrounding skin; 
  • Swelling with a purplish discoloration; 
  • Changes in burn thickness, i.e, your skin begins to harden at a deeper level; 
  • Green discharge and/or pus-like discharge; and/or 
  • Fever. 

If you develop a serious infection as a result of a burn, you may have to have debridement surgery, which is when a surgeon must remove the dead and infected tissue and bone because it is too damaged or serious to be treated with typical antibiotics. Sometimes surgeons will remove dead skin immediately after a serious burn, but the deeper the burn, the more susceptible you are to infection.

Risk Factors and Additional Symptoms of Burn Injuries

If you experience a serious burn over a large percentage of your body, you will lose a lot of fluid in your skin, which will result in dehydration that can actually be life threatening. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or thirsty after a burn, be sure to seek out medical help and IV fluids before you go into a special type of dehydration burn shock. Burns over large areas of your body can greatly decrease your percentage of survival due to complications involving dehydration, infection, and smoke inhalation, and you are at great risk of experiencing such burns if you are trapped in a car fire after a serious accident, scalding liquid is poured on you due to another’s negligence, or you are electrocuted. Further, if an emergency room physician fails to be on the lookout for and diagnose smoke inhalation, dehydration shock, or deep wound infection, you could end up with more serious injuries than those you came in with. This is especially true because serious burns are one of the few injuries that can actually manifest and get worse over time.

Contact a St. Petersburg Burn Injury Attorney with Questions

Due to the permanent scarring associated with serious burns, such an injury can forever change your life. If you were burned due to the negligence of another, including a driver or your employer, it is important to seek compensation for your pain, suffering, and medical bills. Further, if you or a loved one suffered due to a doctor’s failure to diagnose an infection or smoke inhalation, you may have a case for medical malpractice under Florida law. Contact the Dolman Law Group, your premier burn lawyers in St. Petersburg. They are here to fight for your right to take back your life after a serious burn, and they can advise you as to whether you have a burn injury claim under Florida law. Contact them today online or at (727) 222-6922 for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 222-6922

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