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Important information on burn injuries for New Jerseyans

Burns can be among the most painful injuries a person can have. They can scar victims for the rest of their lives. Beyond the superficial damage they can do, some burns can extend below the skin's surface and cause serious damage. Sometimes, they can be fatal. Following is a summary of the three most common degrees of burns.

First-degree burns are the least severe. They can be caused by scalding, sunburn or a flash flame. They impact only the skin's outer layer, the epidermis, but can be painful nonetheless. They heal within days as the damaged skin peels off the victim's healthy skin. Generally, there is no permanent scarring. Hospitalization may be required if there is a fluid imbalance or for pain control.

Second-degree burns are the next more serious and can be very painful. They can be caused by things like scalding or chemicals. Second-degree burns can be partial thickness or full thickness. Partial-thickness burns may have blisters and appear wet. They involve both the epidermis and the upper layers of dermis. The dermis, according to MedicineNet.com, is the inner layer of skin. They generally heal within a few weeks and leave no more than minimal scarring.

Full-thickness burns destroy the epidermis and most of the dermis. Unlike partial thickness burns, the area will appear dry and can be white or red. To heal, excision and skin grafting will probably be necessary.

Third-degree burns, while more severe than first- and second-degree burns, involve little or no pain. They can be caused by the skin coming into contact with chemicals, electricity, hot surfaces or flames. They not only destroy all layers of the skin, but impact the subcutaneous tissues. The burned area may be leathery and charred. If a small area is impacted, it could still take months to heal. Skin grafts may be needed for third-degree burns over large areas.

Depending on the degree, size and location of the burn, extensive treatment and healing time may be needed. Prompt medical attention is essential to determine what kind of treatment is needed and to get it started immediately. Burns that occur in the workplace can be particularly severe. If a burn occurs because of a New Jersey employer's negligence or that of anyone else, they may be able to be held liable both for medical costs as well as other damages like pain and suffering as the burn victim heals.

Source: The University of New Mexico Hospitals, "Burn Classification" Sep. 03, 2014

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