According to the World Health Organization, burns account for about two hundred sixty five thousand (265,000) deaths yearly. It poses as a world health problem especially in the low and middle class countries particularly which half comes from the Southeast Asia.

Burn causes a break or damage in the skin that is best identified by its severity. By indentifying the severity of the burn, one will able to treat burns properly. Damage caused by the burn can be a simple injury but can post a life threatening situation depending on the severity, how long the exposure to the skin and the total area that was involved in the burn.

Many burn injuries cane be avoided, however, accidents are unforeseeable. What is important by recognizing burn, we will be able to do administer the right first aid measures and be able to reduce the risk of complications.


The following can cause:

  • Flame/Fire
  • Hot Liquid (Scald)
  • Hot Objects (Contact)
  • Sunburn
  • Electricity
  • Flammable Gases, Liquids, Strong Alkali (Chemical)


Burns are usually classified according to degree

  • Degree/Severity
    • First Degree – involves the superficial part of the skin
    • Second Degree – also called the partial thickness burns, it involves the next layers of the skin
    • Third Degree – also called the full thickness burns which involves all layers of the skin, at times affecting the muscle and bones


Symptoms of burns depends on the depth and severity of the skin:

  • First Degree Burns
    • Redness
    • Pain or Tenderness
    • Swelling
    • No blister formation (A blister is an accumulation of fluid on the superficial layer of the skin)
    • Usually a few days or within a week and some would manifest as peeling and skin discoloration which maybe temporary
  • Second Degree Burns
    • Pinkish, moist and soft
    • Painful
    • Formation of blisters
    • Usually in two (2) weeks to one and half (1.5) months to heal sometimes which involve scarring
  • Third Degree Burns
    • Filmy white
    • No pain
    • Slow healing with scarring


Treatment of burns is based on the symptoms that one feels specially relieving pain, lessening the swelling, preventing infection and promoting the healing of the burned skin.

  • First Degree Burns
    • Application of towel moistened by cool water can be placed by on the minor burn can alleviate pain and lessen the swelling
    • If no cool compress available, put the burned area on under cool water not more than fifteen (15) minutes
    • To help easing the discomfort, a light dressing can be placed
Run cool water or apply a towel moistened with cool water on first degree burns

Run cool water or apply a towel moistened with cool water on first degree burns

  • Second Degree Burns
    • Wash the burn with saline solution especially if the skin is broken.
    • Do not break blister specifically the small ones. Clean the blister area using cool water and mild antiseptic or mild soap. Apply topical antibiotic and cover with a gauze bandage.
    • For large blisters, seek medical advice.
  • Third Degree Burns
    • Should seek medical advice and treatment as soon as possible.
    • Do not apply of put water on the burnt area.
    • Do not attempt to remove clothing that has stick to the burnt area.
    • First aid involves covering the burn with loose and dry clean dressing.


  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Discoloration of skin which maybe temporary or permanent
  • Contracture which is caused by the tightening of in the muscle causing deformity


The WHO in collaboration with different agencies all over the world developed strategies to prevent burns and improve the care for burn victims. It is a ten-year plan that aims to

  • To build understanding of the nature, extent and preventability of burns;
  • To achieve the strongest possible impact in fostering and building partnerships to address burns
  • To foster and build capacity to undertake effective interventions and evaluate effectiveness

Strategies developed:

  • Strategies to Prevent Burns
    • Use of Smoke Detectors
    • Regulating the hot water heater temperatures
    • Flame resistant sleepwear for children
    • Housing codes for safety electrical wiring
  • Strategies to Improve Burn Care
    • Development of burn care to lower the incidence of morbidity and mortality in high income countries including resuscitation techniques, wound care, infection control and rehabilitation programs
    • Burn survivor groups take a role in support as well as advocacy and campaign

(Burn Prevention and Care, WHO, Switzerland, 2008)

Each sectors involve in this plan have their own responsibilities. With the commitments of these groups all over the world, burn prevention will be able to take a leap forward and burn occurrence worldwide will decrease.

Burns are identified based on the severity or degree of damage to the skin and can be classified as either first, second or third degree burn.

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