With all the oil fields in Texas, fires and explosions are a constant worry. Despite the potentially catastrophic consequences of such workplace injuries, however, the vast majority of burns occur in the home, not the workplace. The American Burn Association reports that of the 3,275 Americans who died from fire and/or smoke inhalation in 2016, 2,745 of the fires that killed them happened at home, 310 happened in a vehicle and only 220 happened somewhere else, including the workplace.

Per the Columbia St. Mary’s Regional Burn Center, there are four categories of burns as follows:

  1. Thermal burns result from coming into contact with the flames or heat of a fire or explosion, or by touching a hot object.
  2. Scald burns result from coming into contact with hot liquids, most often water or cooking oil.
  3. Electrical burns result from coming into contact with such things as a downed power line or a malfunctioning electrical appliance.
  4. Chemical burns result from coming into contact with a caustic substance such as drain and toilet bowl cleaners, some dishwasher detergents, sulfuric acid or sodium hydroxide.

Degree of burn

Burn injuries themselves range from first degree, the least serious, to fourth degree, which are life-threatening. Few people go through life without suffering a first-degree burn, most notably a sunburn. Only the top layer of skin is affected, becoming red, sometimes swelling up, and often peeling as the burn heals. They seldom cause much, if any, pain, but repeated sunburns can lead to melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.

Second-degree burns go below the top layer of skin, almost always blister, and may weep if and when the blisters pop open. The main concern with second-degree burns is the possibility of infection in the open wounds. Treating them with an over-the-counter antiseptic ointment usually causes them to heal within two to three weeks, and they seldom leave a scar.

Third-degree burns go all the way through the skin, burning the tissues and organs underneath. Many people do not realize they sustained a third-degree burn because they may not feel excessive pain. This very lack of pain, however, is cause for alarm since it could indicate nerve damage. The same is true with regard to fourth-degree burns that extend all the way down to the victim’s bones and tendons.

Any burn that appears to be deep, whether or not overly painful, should receive immediate emergency medical attention. Only a qualified burn physician can assess the damage and recommend what, if any, medical intervention is required. Surgery and/or skin grafting are the only ways to prevent or minimize scarring and disfiguration.