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Burns and Electric Shock - Topic Overview

The seriousness of a burn is determined by several things, including:

  • The depth, size, cause, affected body area, age, and health of the burn victim.
  • Any other injuries that occurred, and the need for follow-up care.

Burns affect people of all ages, though some are at higher risk than others.

  • Most burns that occur in children younger than age 5 are scald burns from hot liquids.
  • Over half of all burns occur in the 18- to 64-year-old age group.
  • Older adults are at a higher risk for burns, mostly scald burns from hot liquids.
  • Men are twice as likely to have burn injuries as women.

Babies and young children may have a more severe reaction from a burn than an adult. A burn in an adult may cause a minor loss of fluids from the body, but in a baby or young child, the same size and depth of a burn may cause a severe fluid loss.

A child's age determines how safe his or her environment needs to be, as well as how much the child needs to be supervised. At each stage of a child's life, look for burn hazards and use appropriate safety measures. Since most burns happen in the home, simple safety measures decrease the chance of anyone getting burned. See the Prevention section of this topic.

When a child or vulnerable adult is burned, it is important to find out how the burn happened. If the reported cause of the burn does not match how the burn looks, abuse must be considered and resources for help, such as social services, offered. Self-inflicted burns will require treatment as well as an evaluation of the person's emotional health.

Infection is a concern with all burns. Watch for signs of infection during the healing process. Home treatment for a minor burn will reduce the risk of infection. Deep burns with open blisters are more likely to become infected and need medical treatment.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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