Burn First Aid: Classification of Burns according to Severity

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Why is determining the severity of burn important?

Knowing the severity of a burn is very important, because this will be the basis for providing first aid services. Also by determining how severe the burn is, you can have an idea if the victim needs basic first aid or a more advanced emergency medical assistance. The main idea to remember when determining burn severity is how deep the burn has damaged the skin. The thickness of the burn is classified into several degrees, which we are going to discuss below.

Different types of burns according to degree

  1. First-degree burns – This is the least serious type of burn. Only the outer layer of the skin is burned and the damage is just superficial. This means that the inner layer of the skin is still intact, and the nerves still maintain its functions and sensation. Because this is considered as a minor case, it involves first aid burn treatment.
  2. Second-degree burns – The burned area includes the outer and inner layer of the skin. At this point, blisters usually develop, there is severe pain and swelling in the area, and the skin becomes more reddish and splotchy. As part of first aid, if the surface area of the burn is not larger than 3 inches, it can still be considered as a minor burn. But if the affected part involves the face, feet, hands, and buttocks, and is larger than 3 inches, it should be treated as a major burn, where emergency medical assistance is necessary.
  3. Third-degree burns – This is the most severe form of burn. It means that aside from the epidermis and dermis, the burn may have also damaged the nerves, muscles and even bones. This can cause serious tissue damage, nerve death, fluid loss and extreme heat.

Always remember that the higher the number, the more dangerous the burn.

Major burn should be given proper medical treatment: until help arrives, it is necessary to do the following to the victim:

Never remove the victim’s clothes.
Remove the victim from the area of danger.
Do not immerse major burns in extremely cold water or apply ice packs.

Check the victim for any sign of breathing before administering CPR
Check the victim for any sign of breathing before administering CPR

Administer CPR if victim does not have pulse and not breathing.




Elevate the part of the body that is burned higher than the heart level.

In cases like these, you can save someone’s life if you have necessary background about first and CPR. Enroll in a first aid and CPR course in certified institutions only. Check our locations listing for more information.

Related Video on Burns:

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNQ_uW66LfU” width=”220″]

“Determining the Severity of a Burn.” About.com. First Aid. Retrieved online on August 5, 2014 from http://firstaid.about.com/od/softtissueinjuries/a/07_severe_burns.htm

“Burn Classifications.”  UNM Hospitals. Retrieved online on August 5, 2014 from http://hospitals.unm.edu/burn/classification.shtml

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