By: Joe Swails

What are different types of burns?
Burns can generally be categorised into three types:

Small burns (or superficial burns or scalds, where only the top layer of the skin is affected) – these are usually caused by small incidents such as a spilt hot drink, or kettle steam, and can be treated with basic first aid at home

Partial thickness burns – more severe than small burns because the damage is deeper and blistering tends to occur in tandem with the loss of skin and the redness and pain in the affected area

Full thickness burns – this is where the entire thickness of the skin is affected to the point that the skin becomes blackened (these types of severe ‘charring’ burns as also known as ‘third degree burns’ and can leave considerable scarring)

Symptoms of burns include:

discoloured skin

peeled skin

blistered skin

pain around the affected area (ranging from mild to severe)


charred skin

damage to muscle, bone and body tissue

Other symptoms which can occur as a result of sustaining burns can include: shock, increased heart rate, headache, fever and faintness.

Common causes
Common causes of burns include:

Hot water and/or steam (e.g., baths where the water is at a scalding temperature, accidentally knocked over cups of tea…)

Cooking fluids
Contact with fire

The skin touching extremely hot surfaces, such as an open oven door scalding the backs of a child’s legs, or a metallic burns sustained from absentmindedly sitting upon a car bonnet on a boiling hot day…

Accidents with inflammable liquids and gases – usually sustained in the workplace

Chemical burns – also usually sustained in the workplace

Electrical burns (also known as electricity burns) – these can be sustained at home or in the workplace

Laser burns (e.g., where an operation that involves laser surgery may go wrong for some reason)


Note: The severity of a person’s pain from a burn may not necessarily correspond with the severity or classification of the burn itself. In fact, some small burns can be significantly more painful than a partial thickness burn.

Treating burns at home (what to do)
What to do:

Immediately use cool (but not very cold) water to cool the burnt area. Keep the affected area under this stream of tepid water for not less than twenty minutes, even if this seems excessive to you at the time

Carefully remove any jewellery

Remove clothing being extremely careful not to pull away any material that has stuck to the skin

Gently place a cold compress against the affected area (a flannel, hand towel or even a clean tea towel that has been soaked in cool water will suffice)

Cover the affected area with Clingfilm

When to go to your GP
If you have failed to treat your burn at home – or are particularly concerned about what to do after having used first aid at home – then make an immediate appointment with your GP. If you cannot get an appointment with them, accept the option of seeing whichever doctor is available at your local medical practice at the time – it is important to have your burn(s) assessed without delay in case it has become blistered and/or infected.

When to go to hospital (A&E)
Seek urgent medical attention at the A&E department of your nearest hospital if:

smoke of fumes have been inhaled

you have sustained an electrical burn (e.g., from a domestic electricity supply, or through an accident in the workplace)

you have sustained a chemical burn

you have pre-existing medical condition (e.g., you have a cardiovascular disease, are diabetic, or you are pregnant)

How Chemist Online can help
Through this website we have a range of treatments available to buy which can help relieve the pain of small burns, such as: Panadol Actifast Paracetamol, Vantage Ibuprofen Tablets and Anadin Ibuprofen Tablets.


Advice & Support
The British Burns Association
Tel: 0161 291 6321
Website: www.britishburnsassociation.co.uk

Changing Faces
The Squire Centre
33-37 University Street

Tel: 0845 450 0275
Tel: 0845 450 0640 (if you live in Scotland)
Website: www.changingfaces.org.uk
E-mail: [email protected]

This information and advice is not intended to replace the advice of your GP or chemist. Chemist Online is also not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based upon the content of the Chemist Online website. Chemist Online is also not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites.

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