Section I. SEVERITY AND CAUSES OF BURNS
a. General Seriousness of Burns. Human beings exist in an environment that
contains elements which can be hazardous to our health. Excessive heat, excessive
cold, dangerous chemicals, fire, and water are a few of these elements. Whatever
causes burns--fire, electricity, etc.,-is of particular concern to us for burns are a major
cause of accidental death. Each year more than two million burn accidents cause over
90,000 individuals to be hospitalized. Almost 10,000 people die from burns yearly.
Injuries from burns can be painful, require many months of treatment, and involve loss
of function. Burns are especially hard on children and the elderly, not only in healing
but also in surviving the injury.
b. Importance to the Armed Forces. Today's military uses more fuel than ever
before in order to provide ground and air mobility. The extensive presence of this fuel
increases the risk of burns to military personnel. During conflict, there is a greater
chance of these fuels igniting accidentally and causing burns to those nearby.
Accidents with thermonuclear weaponry can also result in burns. Use of more fuel and
the development of thermonuclear weaponry make the possibility of instant, large
numbers of burn patients a medical and a logistical problem. Whether you deal with
one casualty or a large number, it is most important that you have the knowledge to be
able to assess the severity of a burn and treat the burn, if necessary. Your actions
could mean saving a casualty's life.
FACTORS IN SEVERITY OF BURN INJURY
A number of factors need to be considered when the severity of a burn is being
determined. Included are:
a. Source of the Burn. A burn from nuclear radiation may appear to be minor
but is probably more serious than a thermal burn. Chemical burns are serious because
chemicals which remain on the skin continue to burn the skin for hours or even days.
Remaining in contact with the skin, chemicals can enter the bloodstream.
b. Degree of Burn. If the burn penetrates the outer layer of the skin, as in
second- and third-degree burns, the exposed tissues can be contaminated and invaded
by harmful chemicals and microorganisms. Eventually, these chemicals and
microorganisms can enter the circulatory system of the body.
c. Percentage of the Body Burned (Body Regions Burned). The percentage
of the body burned is an important factor in the chances for the patient's recovery.