The cells that make up our body can function
only at a certain optimum temperature range. Any extreme of temperature
can damage the cells and tissue and cause them to burn.
The most common are flame burns caused by direct contact with
flames of fire. These can be quite serious as the heat emitted by the
flames is very high. Flame burns are a common cause of accidental burns
at home, when clothes catch fire from cooking stoves, fire crackers etc.
- Scalds are caused when hot fluid comes in contact with
the skin. These are usually less serious than the flame burns but
can be so if the area of the burn is large, especially in small
- Chemical burns are caused by strong acids or alkali.
These cause considerable damage to the skin and underlying tissue
and can be serious especially if they involve the face. Chemicals
can damage the eyes causing blindness. These burns are common in
industries where these chemicals are used or when criminals use them
to harm their victim (acid being thrown on the face of victims).
- Electrical burns can be caused by touching a live wire,
inserting a finger into an electrical socket or coming in contact
with electrified water. Lightening strikes can cause electrical
burns but are fortunately a rare occurrence. When our body comes in
contact with a source of electricity, it becomes part of an
electrical circuit. There in point of entry and exit, with possible
damage to all the tissue between these two points. As the injury is
mainly to the deeper tissues, it may be difficult to assess the
degree of damage.
Breathing in hot or toxic gases can lead to inhalational burns. The
soft mucosa of the mouth, throat and the trachea (air pipe) gets
damaged, causing it to swell. This may lead to serious breathing
difficulties and the patient usually needs intensive medical help.
- Radiation burns can occur on being exposed to radiation,
the commonest being sunburn caused by ultraviolet radiation.
Majority of the burns are preventable with good safety precautions and
education. They often occur at home, involving women and children. In
villages, cooking on stoves or fires is a major hazard. Fire safety
should be part of every home, public place or industry and children
should be taught how to keep themselves safe from these dangers.