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Degrees of Burns

A brief write-up on classification of burn injuries which will shed light on the six degrees of burns that are identified by medical fraternity based on their symptoms.
HealthHearty Staff
Injury caused as a result of burns may range from one that can be treated at home with basic first aid, to something severe, which requires sophisticated treatment under the watchful eyes of medical professionals. At times, burn injury can be severe enough to cause the death of an individual. The severity of burns is measured by different classification systems, of which the one that classifies burns according to degrees has been in use since a long time.
The Six Degrees of Burns
There are basically six different degrees of burns, however, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns are more widely known than 4th, 5th, and 6th degree. This can be attributed to the fact that it is almost impossible to survive 4th, 5th, and 6th degree burn injuries. Though blur, the chances of surviving 4th degree burn injuries do exist, however, the same cannot be said about 5th and 6th degree injuries. Discussed below are each of these, along with their symptoms and treatment methods.
1st Degree
These burns are typically characterized by redness of skin and minor pain in the affected area. The affected area may also experience some swelling and sensitivity to touch. These burns are typically inflicted upon coming in contact with hot water or due to sunburn. In most cases, it is possible to treat these injuries at home. At times, however, it may require proper medical treatment by a certified medical professional.
2nd Degree
These injuries are relatively more severe than first degree, as they tend to affect the dermis, i.e., the deep vascular inner layer of the skin. They are typically characterized by red blisters on the surface of the skin and a significant amount of pain. Such burns are generally inflicted upon coming in contact with flames, boiling liquids, or other chemicals. It is necessary to consult a doctor for treating second degree burn injuries, as there are significant chances of infection.
3rd Degree
These burn injuries are the most severe, but they seldom result in loss of life when proper treatment is initiated in time. They are generally caused upon coming in contact with chemicals, due to fire breakout, or as a result of electric shock. Though not fatal in most cases, these burns can be quite damaging, as they destroy all the three layers of the skin. Such severe burns require hospitalization and proper monitoring, as the chances of the injured person going into shock owing to fear cannot be ruled out.
4th Degree
The severity of these burns is aptly highlighted by the fact that these burns don't just damage the skin, but also damage the muscles, ligaments, and tendons lying beneath the skin. These burns can be induced in case of a fire outbreak or a severe electric shock. The chances of these burns resulting in fatality are also quite high. However, if an individual does survive these burns, he will have to undergo skin grafting as a part of the treatment procedure.
5th Degree
In this case, everything up to the bone of the person is burnt. While the layers of skin, muscles, ligaments, and tendons are completely burnt, even the bone is damaged to some extent. The chances of surviving such burns are as good as none. And if there is a miracle and the person survives, he will have to opt for amputation of the affected area as the last resort of treatment.
6th Degree
Undoubtedly the most severe of the various degrees, sixth degree burn injuries are only diagnosed at the time of the autopsy of the individual. In this case, even the bone is damaged to a great extent; even charred at times. It is impossible for humans to sustain such severe burns and thus, death is inevitable.
These were the various degrees according to which burn injuries are classified. More recently, a new classification system to determine the severity of burn-related injuries has been introduced. The new classification takes epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous layers of skin into consideration. That being said, any degree of burn is serious and therefore, has to be subjected to proper treatment.