Thermal burns are burns due to external heat sources that raises skin and tissue temperature causing tissue cell death or charring. Flame is the most common type of burn. Inhalation injury is found in 30% of victims of major flame burns.
Chemical burns are due to strong acids, alkalis, detergents or solvents coming into contact with the skin. Tissues are damaged by protein coagulation or liquefaction rather than hyperthermic activity.
Electrical burns are due to electrical current or lightning coming in contact with the body.
First degree burns or superficial burns appears similar to sunburn that is painful, dry, swollen, erythematous without blisters and involves only the epidermis.
Second degree burns or partial-thickness burns has appearance of moist blebs, formation of vesicle and blister; underlying tissue is mottled pink and white with good capillary refill; this involves the entire epidermis and a variable portion of the dermal layer.
Third degree burns or full-thickness burns appears dry, leathery eschar, mixed white waxy, khaki, mahogany and soot stained. It involves the entire epidermis and dermis, leaving no residual epidermis cells, may include fat, subcutaneous tissue, fascia, muscle and bone.

Burns%20-%20initial%20management Diagnosis


Degree of Burns

First-Degree Burns or Superficial Burns

  • Appearance: Similar to sunburn – painful, dry, swollen, erythematous without blisters & involves only the epidermis
  • Not included in estimates for fluid resuscitation
  • Hospitalization not required; pain resolves in 48-72 hours, peels off without residual scarring in 2-5 days

Second-Degree Burns or Partial-Thickness Burns

  • Appearance: Moist blebs, formation of vesicle & blister; underlying tissue is mottled pink & white with good capillary refill; this involves the entire epidermis & a variable portion of the dermal layer
  • Considered significant burns & are counted in burn size estimates
  • Subclassification
    • Superficial:
      • Extreme pain attributed to a large number of remaining viable nerve endings exposed
      • Re-epithelialize in 7-14 days in the absence of infection
    • Deep
      • Pain is less because fewer nerve endings remain viable; fluid losses & metabolic effects are similar to those of third-degree burn
      • Heals in 21-35 days if without infection; converts to full thickness burns if with wound infection, some may require grafting

Third-Degree Burns or Full-Thickness Burns

  • Appearance: Dry, leathery eschar, mixed white waxy, khaki, mahogany, soot-stained
  • Involves the entire epidermis & dermis, leaving no residual epidermis cells, may include fat, subcutaneous tissue, fascia, muscle & bone
  • No pain sensation & capillary filling
  • Wound cannot epithelialize, heals only by wound contracture or skin grafting
  • The difference in the growth rate of the head & extremities throughout childhood makes it necessary to use surface area charts
    • The “rule of nines” used in adults is applicable only to children >14 year or as a very rough estimate to initiate therapy before transfer to a burn unit
  • In small burns <10%, the “rule of palm” (area from the wrist crease to finger crease in the child) may be used
    • This equals 1% of the child’s body surface area (BSA)
  • Calculation of the fluid for resuscitation depends on the total BSA involved in the burn injury


Lund & Browder Classification

Relative percentage of body surface area affected by growth

0 years 1 year 5 years 10 years >15 years
A = one-half of head 9.5% 8.5% 6.5% 5.5% 4.5%
B = one-half of one thigh 2.75% 3.25% 4% 4.5% 4.5%
C = one-half of one lower leg 2.5% 2.5% 2.75% 3% 3.25%


  • A brief, accurate history must be obtained from guardian upon presentation of the patient
    • Determine the time of injury, causative agent & type of burn, any first aid measures done, patient’s associated medical problems, & vaccination status
  • Stop the burning process by applying cold water on burned area & removing smoldering clothing or clothing saturated with hot liquid or chemicals
  •  Assess degree, site & extent of burn

Laboratory Tests

  • All trauma patients will have their own specific radiologic & laboratory examinations depending on the involved organ during the injury
Routine examinations in the emergency department
  • General
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Serum electrolytes
    • Blood glucose
    • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
    • Creatinine (Cr)
    • Clotting factor tests
    • Blood typing & cross-matching
    • Urinalysis
    • Arterial blood gas (ABG)
  • Inhalational injuries
    • Chest X-ray
    • Carboxyhemoglobin levels
  • Inhalational injuries
    • 12-lead electrocardiography (ECG)
    • Cardiac enzymes

Editor's Recommendations
Most Read Articles
01 Dec 2020
Tetanus toxoid 5 Lf, diphtheria toxoid 2 Lf, pertussis toxoid 2.5 mcg, filamentous haemagglutinin 5 mcg, fimbriae types 2 and 3 5 mcg, pertactin 3 mcg
Dr. Hsu Li Yang, Dr. Tan Thuan Tong, Dr. Andrea Kwa, 08 Jan 2021
Antimicrobial resistance has become increasingly dire as the rapid emergence of drug resistance, especially gram-negative pathogens, has outpaced the development of new antibiotics. At a recent virtual symposium, Dr Hsu Li Yang, Vice Dean (Global Health) and Programme Leader (Infectious Diseases), NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, presented epidemiological data on multidrug-resistant (MDR) gram-negative bacteria (GNB) in Asia, while Dr Tan Thuan Tong, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Infectious Diseases, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), focused on the role of ceftazidime-avibactam in MDR GNB infections. Dr Andrea Kwa, Assistant Director of Research, Department of Pharmacy, SGH, joined the panel in an interactive fireside chat, to discuss challenges, practical considerations, and solutions in MDR gram-negative infections. This Pfizer-sponsored symposium was chaired by Dr Ng Shin Yi, Head and Senior Consultant of Surgical Intensive Care, SGH.
Pearl Toh, 26 Nov 2020
Inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) should be the mainstay of long-term asthma management — such is the key message of the latest Singapore ACE* Clinical Guidance (ACG) for asthma, released in October 2020.
Audrey Abella, 6 days ago
A pilot telemedicine initiative may be an alternative for facilitating delivery of intravenous iron (IVI) for individuals requiring iron supplementation.