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Receiving a burn injury can range from a Band-Aid to multiple surgeries depending on the severity. When you have been a victim of an injury, it is important to be prepared. Burns are an emotionally trying and painful injury. They are also, unfortunately, all too common. A burn can come from heat, exposure to chemicals, electrocution, and even time spent in the sun. If you have been injured, it is important to talk to a Houston burn injury lawyer as soon as possible. Our team can answer your questions during a free, private consultation.

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Burn Injury FAQ

What causes most burns?

Burns have various causes and may occur as a result of fires, explosions, exposure to hazardous chemicals or electricity, motor vehicle accidents, and workplace accidents. They are one of the leading causes of unintentional injury and death in the United States, with 3,390 civilian deaths from fires in 2016 alone.

According to the American Burn Association, most burn injuries are caused by:

  • Fire/open flames
  • Scalds
  • Contact with hot objects
  • Electricity
  • Chemicals

Thanks to advancements in modern medicine, about 96.7% of people treated in U.S. burn centers will survive.

When do burns require treatment at a Burn Center?

Minor, first-degree burns usually require no professional medical intervention, but second- and third-degree burns may require treatment and even hospitalization. It’s important to have burn injuries evaluated by a Burn Center if they cover more than 10% of the body, affect the hands, face, genitalia, or major joints, were caused by electricity or chemicals, or occur in children, the elderly, or at-risk patients with existing medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes. Hospital stays for burns average one day per percent of the body burned, although the specific treatment and stay will depend on the severity of burns and a number of other factors.

Do all serious burns leave scars?

Whether your burn will scar is going to depend on the severity of the burn itself as well as the treatment used initially and in the long term to handle scarring or disfigurement. Skin grafting is one technique that can help with disfigurement after a serious burn. With this method, a piece of healthy skin is transferred onto the burn site. Surgery can restore function after a serious burn that has caused nerve and muscle damage. Because every case is different, it’s important to talk to your doctor about all of your options and to ask to speak to a specialist if you have specific concerns.

Types & Degrees of Burns

  • Thermal Burns
    Very common. Associated with contact with heated items like metals, scalding liquids, steam, or flames.
  • Chemical Burns
    Form when the skin comes in contact with a toxic substance like an abrasive cleaning product.
  • Flash Burns
    Form when people are exposed to an explosion; the burn will be more severe the closer the person comes to the explosion.
  • Inhalation Injury
    Occur when a person breathes in fumes coming from smoke or chemicals. This is usually sustained when they are in an enclosed area. An inhalation burn may cause swelling in the upper airway, difficulty breathing, or even carbon monoxide poisoning.

Inhalation Injuries Caused by Fires

One injury closely related to burns is an inhalation injury. Fires where the victim breathes in particles in the air and toxic fumes commonly cause this. It can not only damage the victim's eyes but can cause significant damage to their respiratory system—most significantly their lungs. If the victim previously suffered from chronic heart or lung disease, exposure to these toxic items can severely aggravate their preexisting condition.

Inhalation injuries result in the following symptoms:

  • Coughing Up Phlegm
  • Scratchy, Irritated Throat
  • Irritated Sinuses
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Pain or Tightness in the Chest
  • Headaches
  • Running Nose

Inhalation injuries typically occur in one of three ways:

  • Heat Inhalation
    If a victim breathes in extremely hot air or a fire source, it can cause a burn to the inside of the lungs. This also occurs when high-pressure forces heat into your lungs. Because the trachea attempts to shield your lungs, the majority of damage is limited to the upper airways.
  • Systemic Toxins
    Fires may release systemic toxins into the air, which if inhaled, can inhibit the body's ability to absorb oxygen. Those who breathe in these toxins often become confused or can even become unconscious. Prolonged exposure can cause permanent organ damage.
  • Smoke Inhalation
    The inhalation of smoke is one of the most common causes of fire-related injuries. This is less visible but still catastrophic; smoke inhalation causes 60 to 80% of burn injury fatalities.

Common Causes of Burn Injuries

  • Auto Fires: Car crashes can cause burns due to explosions, friction, extreme heat exposure, or smoke inhalation.
  • Industrial Accidents: Working with heated metals, exposed electricity, or other toxic substances can often lead to burns.
  • Oil Industry Fires: When working in oil and gas, the potential for being exposed to toxic chemicals or explosions is elevated.
  • Work Accidents: This can occur from many hazards, including dangerous chemicals, electricity, flash burns, thermal contact burns, explosions, heated mechanisms, hot oils or liquids, or tools that are not properly insulated.

First-Degree Burns

First-degree burns are quite common. This can if you bump your arm with the curling iron or accidentally splash hot oil on yourself while cooking. Generally these are not severe; usually running cool water over the area will help lessen the pain. Remember you don’t want to use ice, but cooler water will bring some relief. Next, you will want to make sure you protect the wound by covering it with a bandage. Use one without adhesive to avoid getting the sticky stuff inside the wound. There may be some inflammation and pain, so if needed, a simple over the counter pain medication can be taken. With first-degree burns, they can be treated at home and will heal in due time.

Symptoms of first-degree burns include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • White (or blanched) skin

Second-Degree Burns

Second-degree burns are the next up on the severity ladder. The size of the burn will determine whether emergency care should be sought out or if it can be treated at home. Usually, it will be no larger than three inches in diameter as a second-degree burn. It is important to realize that these are not just surface level skin injuries, but rather affect the next layer of the skin as well. Make sure you don’t use ice when trying to treat a burn, and, if there is blistering, whatever you do, don’t try popping it open to release the fluid. Finally, it is common to want to relieve some of the pain with ointments or butter, but this may further irritate or infect the area, so avoid all topical treatments without the advice of a doctor.

Symptoms of second-degree burns include:

  • Blistering
  • Intense redness
  • Severe pain
  • Splotchy appearance
  • Swelling

Third-Degree Burns & Fourth-Degree Burns

Third and fourth-degree burns are among the most severe types a person can receive. Not only do these affect the different layers of skin, but this intense of a burn injury can also reach as far as the bones, and the surrounding muscles and fat as well. A burn like this may also damage nerves, which would explain if you experience any form of numbness or tingling in the burn area. These burns are generally caused by prolonged time in the flames, rather than a quick encounter with a candle, etc. This severity of burns can happen when there is a building fire, and if that is the case, there is also a possibility of inhaling too much smoke, therefore, poisoning your lungs with carbon monoxide.

When dealing with these sorts of burns, the first thing you must do is contact the emergency services. These require medical care. Do not attempt to do anything that could further injure yourself. If you were wearing clothes that have been burned to your skin, don’t try and remove them. Wait for the professionals to do that. Avoid using cold water to treat the wounds. The pain is going to be severe, but the cold water may further irritate the area. If at all possible, try elevating the areas on your body that received the burns, to decrease the blood pressure near the wounds.

Symptoms of third and fourth-degree burns include:

  • Charring
  • Stiff or waxy appearance
  • Leathery or tan appearance
  • Numbness (resulting from destroyed nerves)

To learn more about burn injuries, visit MedlinePlus.gov today!

Burn Injury Treatments

Immediately after a burn occurs, the victim will need medical care. Cooling via water or ice can reduce the depth of the burn and the pain, but over-cooling can lead to hypothermia. For minor burns, pain-relieving medications and bandages will usually suffice.

For more extensive burns, additional treatment will be required. This can include the following:

  • Amputation may be necessary for extreme burns
  • Antibiotics or other treatment for infection
  • Intravenous fluid, as fluid leakage occurs
  • Massage or antihistamines
  • Skin grafts
  • Surgery

Modern advancements in medicine have made surviving burn injuries much more likely, and treatment much more effective. Skin graft and flap procedures can repair many burn scars, to improve the quality of living for victims. Even though a burn victim may live longer, his or her quality of life will diminish significantly, as they will suffer permanent disfigurement and lifelong pain.

Skin Grafts

One of the most common treatment options for a severe burn injury is a skin graft. A skin graft is a surgical procedure where the skin is taken from a healthy donor spot on the victim and transplanted onto the damaged areas.

There are several different types of skin grafts, including:

  • Pinch Grafts
  • Split-Thickness Grafts
  • Full-Thickness Grafts
  • Pedicle Grafts

Generally, if the graft "survives" the first 72 hours after its initial implantation surgery, then the body will accept it. Should infection be kept at bay and steady blood supply is given, the graft should take around six months to heal fully.

Industrial Burns from Chemical Plant Explosions, Oil Refinery Fires & More

Fires kill more Americans than any other kind of natural disaster, while more Americans die in plants and factories than any other country. Our country is, unfortunately, excelling at hurting our workers. With plants exploding at a faster rate and fuel within arm's reach at virtually every industrial site, it's no surprise that plant burns are causing hundreds of injuries every year. Industrial burns are often more intense than residential fires. First of all, the kind of fuel you might find in a refinery fire is far different than the fuel available for a house fire. Secondly, a chemical burn is going to create a more intense fire and a more damaging effect. Refinery burns are far more likely to be catastrophic.

Call (888) 493-1629 to Talk to Experienced Houston Burn Injury Lawyers

If you have been injured in an accident that resulted in serious burns, then it is highly important that you work with a Houston burn attorney you can trust. At Arnold & Itkin, we have recovered billions on behalf of our clients; in fact, we handle more cases each year than most attorneys will handle in their entire careers. If you hire our firm, we will go the distance in our efforts to provide you with the reliable assistance you deserve.

We fight to help you recover the compensation that you need for medical treatment, lost wages, pain, suffering, mental anguish, and more. Regardless of whether you suffered a burn after being injured on the job or in a vehicle accident, we are the team of burn injury lawyers that you need on your side. Call to see how we can help.

Contact our Texas burn attorneys to learn how we can help during a 100% free, confidential consultation.

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  • $97 Million Massive Settlement Secured for Refinery Workers Arnold & Itkin is proud to share that after months of preparation for trial, our firm was able to secure a huge settlement for clients who were injured in a refinery fire. Find out more now.
  • $92.7 Million Record Settlement for Burn Injury Victim Arnold & Itkin LLP secured a substantial settlement for a man who suffered severe burns in an accident at his job. The settlement set a new record statewide for workers with similar injuries.
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