• Burns are a major public health problem globally. In addition to physical damage, they can leave a long lasting psychological and social impact.1,2
  • In the UK 130,000 people each year visit the Emergency Department with burn injuries.2
  • Approximately 8% (10,000) of these patients are admitted.2

Definition & Types of Burn

A burn is defined as a traumatic injury to the skin or other organic tissue primarily caused by thermal or other acute exposures.

There are various types of burns which include:

  • Thermal: This is the most common type of burn and includes flame burns, scalds (from hot liquids) and contact burns (from hot objects e.g. an iron or radiator).
  • Chemical: Acids and alkalis found in household chemical products can produce very deep burns through coagulative and liquefactive necrosis.4 They will continue to burn the skin until completely removed. It is therefore essential that the skin is thoroughly irrigated.4 Alkalis penetrate deeper than acids and those presenting with alkali burns (commonly due to cement) will require immediate attention.
  • Electrical: As an electrical current travels through the body it creates an entry and exit point, damaging tissue along its path as it is converted from electrical to thermal energy. Electrical burns from domestic low voltage exposures tend to be less severe than high voltage electrical burns which can cause extensive tissue damage and limb loss. It is still very important that domestic electrical burns are taken seriously and an ECG is performed as the alternating nature of domestic current can cause arrhythmias.
  • Cold exposure (frostbite): These burns are caused by ice crystals which can form both intra and extracellularly.5 The subsequent fluid and electrical fluxes cause cell membrane lysis and cell death and a damaging inflammatory process is set up.5
  • Radiation: Radio frequency energy or ionising radiation causes tissue damage. The most common type of radiation burn is sun burn.5 Other patients at risk of getting radiation burns are those undergoing radiation therapy for cancer treatment.