For some reason, several people wanted more information about burns. Instead of answering these all separately, we decided it made more sense to make a master post (yay). This is some research to get you going along with some links to further your own research and hopefully help you along the way, so let’s begin.
What are burns?
A burn is a type of injury to flesh or skin caused by heat, electricity, chemicals, friction, or radiation. Most burns affect only the superficial skin (known as superficial or first degree) or extend into the deeper skin but do not involve the full thickness of the skin (known as partial thickness or second degree). Rarely all layers of the skin or deeper tissues, such as muscle or bone can be injured in which case the burn is either full thickness (third degree) or fourth degree. [x]
So burns are injuries to your skin. I think a common misconception is that it can only be caused by heat; as we can see from the description above, that isn’t true. Keep this in mind! So, burns could be caused by your iron, a fire, and electrocution.
I think it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be fire. Your characters could suffer their burns in a way that’s more original and unique to other peoples books. (Don’t make it too unrealistic though!)
TYPES OF BURN INJURY:
First-degree burn injury: damage to the outer layer of the skin
Second degree: damage to the outer layer and the layer underneath
Third degree burn injury: damages or destroys the deepest layer of the skin and the tissues underneath it.
Fourth degree: burn injury reaches the subcutaneous tissue and into the nerves, muscles and bones. [x]
APPEARANCE OF BURNS
This depends on the degree.
First Degree: Red skin, painful to touch (such as sunburn).
Second Degree: Blisters on skin, extremely painful and sensitive, heals in 1-2 weeks.If deep partial skin is yellow or white. Sometimes blisters, very painful. Heals in 3-8 weeks.
Third Degree: Stiff and white/brown, painless. Healing time is prolonged and not complete.
Fourth Degree: Black and charred. Is painless. This type of burn requires amputation.
I’m going to split this into sections because it depends on the degree of burn.
First and second Degree
You can treat these injuries at home if the burn is smaller than the palm of your hand. The burn should be put under cold running water and left there for a number of minutes. This cools the burn and reduces the chance of it blistering. You shouldn’t put any material or creams on the burn and instead leave it. If it’s more serious you can put a single layer of cling film around the burn or a plastic bag.
Infection is the biggest complication so any blisters on the wound should not be popped. It will expose the new and sensitive skin to bacteria and is likely to cause infection.
The larger the burn the more serious it is and the more likely the need to take the person to hospital.
Shock is a major problem with burns, if the person goes into shock they will get very cold so the person must be kept warm. The person will probably have to go to hospital for treatment. The wound must be cleaned and the dead skin removed; this can be done in surgery or in a special bath at the hospital. The person will probably be given IV fluids and may also be given antibiotics. Skin grafts are sometimes required, this is where they remove healthy skin to replace the burnt and injured skin.
This sort of burn will scar and it could also lead to amputation in more severe cases.
Not many people survive fourth degree burns and the outlook isn’t great for the person- if they survive they will require extensive treatment. The person will probably go into shock like with all burns. It affects all layers of skin and can leave bone and ligaments exposed- increasing the chance of infection.
The dead skin will be removed from the injury. Special bandages can encourage the growth of the person’s own skin.
Skin grafts may be used if the skin won’t grow back. This will fuse to the burnt skin and begin to grow. This will still leave scarring.
The skin surrounding the area of a serious burn can become tight and restrict the flow of blood to the tissues and muscle. An Escharotomy involves surgical incisions to the burn to expose the fatty layer of skin. This helps the blood flow easier.
If the burn is very serious and at an extremity amputation will take place. This is quite common with more severe burns as they damage the bone and nerves.
FOR YOUR WRITING
Make sure you know what you are talking about, research it extensively especially for the more severe types of burn. If you are writing historical or fantasy fiction you need to be aware of how treatments may be different and how this could affect the scarring and the likelihood of death.
Thank you to ohthat1 for helping me create this masterpost.
Underneath the read more is some personal experiences of burns which are quite educational and useful.
I burned by arm on the stove about one and a half years ago. I fainted, so I didn’t feel it. When I came to, the burn felt really hot and it stung a little, but it wasn’t too painful. My parents put tea towels soaked in water on the burn, which was uncomfortable but not too painful.
At the ER, the doctors cleaned the burn and gave me a tetanus shot. The hospital policy was to give every burn patient a tetanus shot, even if they had gotten theirs within the past five years, as I had. I was also given a prescription for a herbal ointment called “Mebo”. It has a gel-like consistency, is light brown, and has a strong smell of burnt wood. I couldn’t escape it - the smell got all over the bandages and clothes. To treat the burn, I had to wash it twice daily with saline solution, apply the cream, and wrap with clean bandages. Because we kept it in the fridge, the saline solution was really cold and stung a lot when washing the wound, which was already very sensitive by this point. The ointment wasn’t much better. We washed the wound by squirting saline solution straight from the bottle onto the burn, then dabbing it with a tea towel. Of course, the bandages itched. The burn extends from my little finger to my elbow, so my palm and two fingers all the way about an inch above my elbow had to be wrapped.
While it was healing a huge brown blister formed over the burned skin, which began to peel. Underneath the skin was bright red and very sensitive. The skin became slightly wrinkled in some parts, and the hair was burned off. I wore the bandages for two to three weeks, but took it off when school started because I didn’t like the attention. After that I wore long sleeve shirts and cardies until it was less noticeable.
Now the skin is paler than the rest of my arm, with some pink splotches. Some of the edges of the burn are a very pale brown, but others just fade. The skin is still slightly bumpy, as well. The burn on my hand was worse, and is all pink. The burns are almost entirely indistinguishable from the rest of my arm, except under florescent lighting. When the arm gets hot, because of weather or showering, the burns become a bright red. They’re only a slightly more sensitive than my unburnt skin, but I avoid scratching or touching it whenever possible.
Sorry for the length; the more I wrote the more I remembered!