Burn (Scald)

By | June 10, 2022

One speaks of a burn or scalding when the body is exposed to heat of more than 45 degrees Celsius. In this case, the cells are not only damaged, but can even die off in the worst case.

What is a burn (scald)?

If heat, i.e. temperatures of more than 45 degrees Celsius, affects the body, its cells are damaged and one speaks of a burn or scalding. There are four degrees of severity:

Depending on how long the heat acts on the body and how high the temperatures are. Sunburn is a first-degree burn – the typical symptom here is reddened skin. In this case, only the top layer of the epidermis is affected. For all you need to know about polio, please visit phonecations.com.

Second – degree burns usually have blisters along with redness and swelling. If both the epidermis and the dermis are affected by the injury, it is referred to as a third degree burn – in this case the skin is completely destroyed.

In this case, it is whitish to brownish in color. The worst form of the disease is a fourth-degree burn – muscles, tendons, bones and joints are affected in addition to the skin. The skin itself is black in color due to charring.


Between 10,000 and 15,000 people are treated in hospitals for burns each year, making this a fairly common injury.

More than two thirds of injuries occur in the home or on the road, while around one third of burns are due to accidents at work. In most cases, scalding is caused by hot water. Burns, on the other hand, can be caused by flames or explosions as well as by radiation or electric current.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

For burns and scalds, symptoms depend on the severity of the injury. Four degrees of damage are distinguished. In a first-degree burn, only the outermost layer of skin is affected. The symptoms are such that the skin is sore, red and dry and also slightly swollen – such as after a sunburn or contact with hot liquids or objects, it should heal in a short time.

The superficial burn of the second degree is manifested by severe pain, a red burn, a moist surface. Burn blisters can also form. If you talk about another second-degree burn, the wound is deeper. Since the burn blisters can be open, there is a risk of infection. With this form of burn, it is possible for the skin to scar.

It can take more than three weeks to recover. Third degree burns are so severe that the entire skin structure is destroyed. Due to the destruction of the nerve endings, the patient does not feel pain, but numbness. This is also where scars appear. This can be caused by contact with electricity, fire or chemicals. A fourth-degree burn can involve complete destruction of the affected body part and is therefore also called charring.

Diagnosis & History

The doctor makes the first diagnosis by checking not only the actual skin area of ​​the burn, but also the heart and circulatory functions and breathing of the patient. The course of a burn naturally depends on the severity of the injury – but age and any previous illnesses also play a not insignificant role.

The initial treatment at the scene of the accident is also very important – the healing process clearly depends on this. For very severe burns, lifelong follow-up care may be required.


A burn or scald can result in various complications. This applies in particular to deeper burns or if the body surface is affected over a large area. Acute consequences of a severe burn or scald include infection and loss of fluids.

There is also a risk of burn disease. In some cases, it can even be life-threatening. Another possible risk of burns is inhalation trauma caused by inhaling soot. Those affected suffer from breathing problems, coughing and lack of oxygen. The treatment requires the supply of oxygen or even artificial respiration.

Various previous illnesses can also play a role in the severity of the complications. These include serious metabolic diseases, diabetes mellitus, nicotine addiction or alcoholism. Extensive burns or scalds result in a more difficult healing process, especially in older patients.

The effects of a burn also include permanent impairment of the quality of life. These are also possible if, for example, only five percent of the facial skin is affected. There is a risk of severe scarring, the extent of which cannot be predetermined. If the joints are affected by the burn, movement restrictions are possible. Sensory or tactile impairments may also occur.

When should you go to the doctor?

If there are slight symptoms after contact with a heat source or an open fire, you should try to provide relief by cooling the affected part of the body. Redness of the skin and slight pain can be minimized by holding the bodily regions under cold running water. A doctor is not needed if there is a significant improvement or freedom from symptoms after just a few minutes. For more severe burns, a doctor is always required. If the upper layers of the skin become detached, severe pain occurs or blisters appear on the skin, a doctor’s check-up must take place.

Restrictions in mobility, the loss of gripping function or general mobility as well as losses in physical strength indicate an acute need for action. If the entire body or parts of it were in or near a hot heat source for several minutes, it is advisable to seek medical advice for the symptoms. Dysfunction, numbness on the skin, or shortness of breath need to be evaluated and treated. If the affected person stays in an area with direct sunlight for a long time, the symptoms can also occur. A doctor is needed to determine the extent of the disorder. A sudden feeling of discomfort, dizziness and changes in heart rhythm are other signs that need to be clarified.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment of a burn depends on the depth of the injury. It is usually only possible to assess this precisely a few days after the actual accident. First aid at the scene of the accident is very important for the treatment of a burn.

Cooling the injured area of ​​skin with water at a temperature of around 15 to 25 degrees should be the first measure to prevent so-called “afterburning” of the skin. Ice water, on the other hand, should by no means be used; the cooling should also not last longer than 20 minutes in order to rule out hypothermia. In addition, the injured person should be wrapped in a blanket, ideally a rescue blanket.

If it is necessary to have the injured person admitted to a hospital, further treatment will take place here. The main focus here is initially on pain therapy and liquid is now also administered to the patient. It is also important that the injured person has received a vaccination against tetanus.

For burns that affect more than 15 percent of the body surface, patients are usually taken to a special center for severe burn injuries. In some cases, mostly from stage three burns, skin grafts are necessary. If large areas of skin are burned, the patient may need to be placed in an induced coma.


Prevention of burns and scalds is very important, especially for small children. This is where most accidents happen, especially in the home. Such accidents can be prevented by taking appropriate safety measures.

But adults can also prevent burns – sunburn in particular can be avoided by avoiding the blazing sun, especially at midday. Just as many accidents occur when barbecuing – here, too, special care is required when handling alcohol.


Depending on the degree and localization of the burn, the patient needs physiotherapy after the treatment to regain or improve mobility. This treatment can already be started in the form of physiotherapy during inpatient treatment in the hospital. In the case of particularly severe burns that have required skin grafts, further interventions may be necessary after acute treatment to make corrections.

After acute treatment, dressings must be changed regularly. Scarring occurs in most burns. If large scars appear, they must be treated with compression or massage. This is particularly important for body regions with a high degree of elasticity, such as the hands. The scar tissue can also be treated by additional skin grafts.

Regular greasing of the scars and use of medicinal baths specially tailored to the scar tissue are also useful. In addition to the physical impairment, the person affected can also experience psychological problems. This can be a post-traumatic stress reaction. Psychological counseling is therefore advisable in the case of severe burns. In addition, persistent pain can occur, which should be treated with pain therapy. Acupuncture is often used for this.

You can do that yourself

In the event of a burn, the cause of the burn should first be determined. However, there must be no acute danger here. Clothing that has already been burned should not be removed from the skin. In any case, the burn should only be cooled after consultation with the doctor. Only minor burns or scalds can be cooled with cold water and then ice packs. The affected area must be covered in a sterile manner.

After the burn has subsided and, if necessary, has been treated by a doctor, the affected area should be rested. Depending on the severity of the burn, it may take a few days to weeks for the injury to fully heal. Until then, the affected area should be treated regularly with suitable ointments. Natural remedies made from aloe vera are ideal for sensitive skin. The use of alternative remedies should be discussed with your general practitioner or dermatologist.

Larger burns require special treatment. Massages and the use of special anti-scar creams counteract the skin changes. At the same time, the cause of the combustion must be determined. Preventive measures prevent re-burning.

Burn (Scald)