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What Makes Burn Injuries So Dangerous?

Out of all of the injuries you may encounter throughout your life, burn injuries are among those that pose some of the greatest dangers. Depending on several factors, including the source of the burn and its location, burn injuries can involve both immediate and prolonged medical attention. They can also require an extremely lengthy recovery time. So, why are burn injuries so dangerous to the human body?

The Anatomy of Skin

Your skin is the largest organ of the body. It forms a protective barrier to the outside world, preventing harmful bacteria and other materials from entering your body. Skin also provides the brain with specific environmental information and plays a primary role in regulating your body temperature. It is made up of three different layers:

  • Epidermis Layer: This is the surface or outer layer of skin. Its primary function is to shield your body from the environment.
  • Dermis Layer: The second layer of your skin is made up of a thick layer of collagen, which is a type of protein. Collagen contains essential amino-acids and makes up around 30 percent of all the protein found in your body.  The dermis contains vital support structures and sensory nerves, such as oil glands, sweat glands and hair follicles.
  • Subcutaneous Layer: The third and innermost layer of your skin contains the soft and fatty tissues that lie just beneath the dermis. The subcutaneous layer provides your body with shock absorption and essential insulation.

Severity of the Burn

When heat or chemicals come into contact with your skin, damage is done to its chemical and cellular makeup. Depending on how hot your skin gets, how long it is exposed to the source and the physical location of the burn, medical professionals are able to diagnose the severity a burn.

Essentially, burns that are larger and more severe are harder to recover from. They not only cause excruciating pain, they can wreck your immune system and result in the permanent death of your body tissues. Burns vary in their severity and they are classified using the following scale:

First Degree Burns

These burns affect only the epidermis layer. They are painful to the touch, however, they usually heal within about one week and have no further complications.

Second Degree Burns

Burn injuries of the second degree can reach the upper layer of your dermis, causing possible infections at the burn site and taking up to three weeks to heal.  The most severe second degree burns can extend to the deeper layer of dermis and take months to heal. They can cause scarring and even require skin grafting before healing properly.

Third Degree Burns

Burns of the third degree extend completely through the dermis. They kill nerve endings, taking away all sensation and sense of touch. These burns make the skin appear dry, tough and leathery. Third degree burns require tissue removal or even amputation.

Fourth Degree Burns

These burns extend beyond all three layers of skin and deep into the muscle tissue or bone. Fourth degree burn injuries often cause a complete loss of function in the burned area. They require tissue removal or amputation and can even lead to death.

Dangers of Severe Burns

Severe or large burn injuries can pose some serious problems. Some of the most common dangers are:

Infection: Burn injuries leave your skin open and susceptible to infection. Without healthy skin, you have no defense against bacterial infections. Burn injuries also increase your risk of sepsis, which is a life- threatening infection that rapidly travels through the bloodstream. Sepsis can cause shock and organ failure.

Low Blood Volume: Burn injuries damage your blood vessels, causing fluids to escape the body. This can result in low blood volume, known as hypovolemia. A severe loss of fluid and blood can prevent the heart from pumping enough blood through your body.

Breathing Difficulties: One of the most common dangers that accompany burn injuries is the inhalation of smoke or hot air. This can burn your airways, making it difficult to breathe. Smoke can permanently damage your lungs and lead to respiratory failure.

Problems with Bones and Joints: Deeper burns can severely limit any kind of movement for bones or joints. Burn injuries form scar tissue once healed and can cause contractures. When the skin is burned, surrounding skin starts to pull together, resulting in a post-burn contracture that prevents movement.

While only a portion of burn injuries result in third or fourth degree burns, any burn injury can pose serious dangers and lead to complications. If you received a burn injury resulting from another party’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses.


For more information on this or other burn injury related issues in California, contact San Francisco Burn Injury Lawyer Nelson C. Barry III.




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