First Aid Classes – Types of Burns

Fact Checked

Types of BurnsThere are many different types of burns to learn about in First Aid Classes, from superficial damage to deep tissue damage which can be life-threatening. The job of the skin is to protect us from infection and a burn means it cannot function effectively. There may be significant fluid loss from a burn as damaged tissues excrete fluid which will either be contained under the skin and create blisters or will leak through.

There are many different types of burns and causes for them as listed below from the workplace approved First Aid manual.

Dry Burns can be caused by flames, hot objects such as a iron, or friction burns.

Scalds are usually from steam or hot liquids such as tea, coffee or hot fat.

Electrical Burns can be from both high and low voltage currents, ranging from domestic appliances to mains cables, or even a lightening strike.

Cold Burns include frostbite, touching freezing metals or freezing vapours like liquid oxygen or liquid nitrogen.

Chemical Burns may involve industrial chemicals, domestic chemicals or any other strong acid or alkali. These can include inhaled fumes and corrosive gases.

Radiation Burns can be from sunburn, overexposure to UV lamps or even exposure to a radioactive source such as an X-Ray.

First Aid Classes – How deep a burn is and the percentage of burns

There are three categories for the depth of a burn; superficial, partial-thickness and full-thickness. Superficial burns only affect the top layer of the skin and cause redness, swelling and tenderness. Partial-thickness burns can be very painful and cause the skin to become red and blistered due to fluid expelled from damaged tissues. Finally, full-thickness burns are when all the layers of the skin are damaged, possibly along with nerves, fat tissues, muscles and blood vessels. These burns are not usually painful as damaged nerves mean sensation is lost, however workplace approved Training emphasises that this is a tell-tale sign of a serious injury and needs urgent medical attention.

To estimate the percentage of the body that has sustained burns, you can use the patients palm to represent 1% of their body surface. Any partial-thickness burns over more than 1% of the body surface must get medical attention and superficial burns over a larger area than 5%. Even partial-thickness burns covering more than 20% can be fatal.

St Mark James First Aid manual says all full-thickness burns must be given hospital treatment despite their size. Also, any burns to the face, hands, feet, genital areas, or burns spreading fully around an arm or leg must be given professional attention. If the patient has burns with varying depths you should also seek hospital treatment or if you are in any doubt about the severity of the injury.

Always take a history from the patient to determine how the burn

occurred. workplace approved Training explains you can use this knowledge to assess the severity of the injury, if the airway has been affected, the risk of significant fluid loss and the risk of infection.


First Aid Manual (The Authorised Manual of St. John Ambulance, St Andrew’s Ambulance Association and the British workplace approved), 2006.

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