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.


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
09 Dec 2016
All patients with acne are potentially at risk of scarring. Professor Goh Chee Leok addresses this issue by focussing on preventing the development of scars in his talk at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Dermatological Society of Malaysia held in Kuching, Sarawak.
25 Aug 2016
Peeling treatments with lactobionic acid, corundum microdermabrasion, or a combination of both can significantly decrease sebum secretion in patients with acne vulgaris, a new study finds.
06 Jun 2016

The recent Paediatrics in Practice (PIP) 2016 held recently in Selangor was a success. On top of the launch of a locally published atlas, the conference also featured the introduction of DEBRA (Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association), various presentations, a workshop and panel discussion on paediatric skin diseases by prominent specialists such as Dr. Tang Jyh Jong, Dr. Tan Wooi Chiang, Dr. Chan Lee Chin, Dr. Sabeera Begum and Dr. Leong Kin Fon. MIMS Doctor spoke to Dr. Thiyagar Nadarajaw, paediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist and Leong, a consultant paediatric dermatologist at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital about the PIP workshop and their thoughts on the atlas.