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Burn Injury

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Burn Injury

The NHS estimates that more than 13,000 people with burns are admitted to hospital each year and more than double this number are treated in Accident and Emergency departments across the UK.

Burn injuries cause muscle and nerve damages that can be extremely painful and lead to devastating physical effects, such as deformities and scarring.

In addition to the potentially serious physical implications of burn injuries, the serious psychological harm that may result through a person sustaining burn injuries can be life-changing.

Many burn victims become depressed, develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or become socially isolated as a result of the traumatic event in which they sustained their injuries, the intense pain caused, or due to the scars and deformities that can result from such injuries.


Severe burns can lead to amputations if the damage to a body extremity is too serious for recovery. Amputations have their own, unique consequences, so please see the section on amputations for specific advice and guidance related to amputations for a more extensive overview.

Categories Of Burn Injuries

Burns are categorised according to severity and fall into three categories, listed and explained below.

First Degree Burn

These are minor burn injuries which make the skin red due to the harm caused to its top layer, but the burn is not serious enough to make the skin blister. There will be some pain felt but it should not last for too significant an amount of time.

Second Degree Burns

These burns tend to be a lot more painful than first degree burns but can be serious enough to entirely wipe out groups of nerves under the skin, making the injuries not as painful as the severity suggests but with serious risk factors from the effects of the injury.

The skin is likely to turn bright red and blister and a victim is at risk of infection. Furthermore, the skin will look moist because of the fluids that are lost through the sites of the burns and a burns victim may go into shock due to a loss of fluid if the burns cover an area greater than 10% of the body.

Third Degree Burns

This is the most severe type of burn which totally destroys all of the layers of the skin, causing damage to all underneath it, including muscle, tendons, and ligaments and, on more rare occasions, bone.

Here, most nerve groups in the affected area are destroyed, so a victim may not suffer any pain in those areas; nevertheless, they will often be at risk of death. These burns will often require skin grafts and will almost definitely leave widespread scarring.

Causes Of Burn Injuries

Road Traffic Accidents

Virtually all cars on the roads in the UK have built-in front seat airbags. For an airbag to trigger in an accident, a small, controlled explosion must occur.

Unfortunately, this may sometimes cause burns to the driver and front seat passenger if it causes a fire in the front of the car.

In addition, it is possible for a car to catch fire due to the flammable nature of many of the liquids and upholstery in a car, such as the fuel, which may set alight in a motor accident.

Accidents At Work

A lot of people work with electrical equipment or machinery that can cause fires that result in burns if misused or if they malfunction. Additionally, some people work with chemicals that can cause very serious burns.

This makes it important that workers receive suitable health and safety training and specialist training for the correct use of equipment to make sure that they are able to avoid causing accidents that could cause burns.

Hot Liquid

The risk of suffering serious burns from hot liquid or metal containing hot liquid exists for everyone in all walks of life, whether it is at home, work or school.

It is imperative that a person always monitors the temperature of potentially hot drinks as the mouth is one of the most sensitive areas of the body, while hot drinks should always be handled with care to avoid spillage.

It is also a sensible idea to make sure children are not left in reach of hot drinks or hot pipes to minimise the risk of burns to their more fragile skin.

Effects Of Burn Injuries

As the largest organ of the human anatomy, the skin plays a vital part in the prevention of infection and the facilitation of mobility.

A burns victim’s immune system is likely to come under constant due to the lack of protection usually provided by the skin, while the pain and problems with healing of burn injuries can lead to restricted mobility.

On top of this, burn injuries can often be traumatic for a person to experience and their family may also struggle to come to terms with the effects of the injuries, which can lead to psychological and emotional problems for both.

The experience of burn injury claims among our expert solicitors ensures that they are ideal legal representation to pursue a claim for compensation on your behalf. The help they can provide through obtaining compensation for you will go some way to relieving the burden on your shoulders so you can plan ahead for the future while concentrating on your recovery. Without this vital help, burn injuries can have devastating effects on all aspects of a person’s life as well as the lives of those closest to them.

Physical Effects

The skin plays a massive part in restricting bacterium, viruses and fungi from entering the blood stream. This means that burns, predominantly second and third degree burns, may compromise the body’s capability to fight infection as, without the skin, every day infections that exist in the air that are usually halted by the skin can enter the body’s system with ease.


The skin’s elastic nature allows for a wide range of movement of limbs and other body parts and nerves in the skin are extremely sensitive, but burns can make the smallest movement tremendously painful.

If the burns are serious enough to damage large sets of nerves, the harm to the muscles can be very painful and have a debilitating effect on a person’s mobility.

During a burns victim’s recuperation, scarred parts of the skin sometimes contracts, causing bone deformities and muscle damage, that can seriously affect a person’s capability to move in the way they did prior to sustaining the burn injuries.


If a body extremity or limb is injured beyond repair, it will be amputated. This brings with it many problems exclusive to amputations, depending on what part of the body is amputated. Please see the section on amputations for a more thorough overview.

Psychological Effects
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A burns victim is likely to develop this disorder if they struggle to forget or move on from the horrible memories of a traumatic incident that caused their burn injuries.

Those suffering PTSD tend to experience depression, anger, insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks to the traumatic event. Please consult our pages on Serious Psychiatric Injuries for a more extensive look at PTSD.


Social activities participated in before burn injuries may not be possible to the same extent or at all for a burns victim due to the nature of the activity in question and disabilities they suffer from, such as many sports.

While this may be down to the physical impairments that may be suffered by burn victims, it could also be the result of pain or side-effects from painkillers.
A person unable to participate in the same activities as before their injuries may feel helpless and isolated due to their changed situation and lack of social interaction at the level they used to have.


A burns victim may feel self-conscious about how their scars, deformities or amputation site looks due to their physical differences to the majority of people. They may begin to harbour a fear of how others will react to their amputation and begin acting in an ashamed manner, thus restricting themselves socially, in employment and in education.

Treatment And Rehabilitation

The efficiency and effectiveness of post-burns surgical procedures as well as physical rehabilitation, psychological therapy and the science surrounding skin grafts are all increasing due to advances in the area, so with the right guidance and some hard work, a burns victim can improve their condition in an attempt to return to a position as close to normality as possible.

The treatment, rehabilitation and therapy provided for burns victims aim to allow the injured person to have a good quality of life by maximising their independence by teaching techniques for them to live independently with their injuries, imparting knowledge on how to look after their wounds to restrict the possibility of further injury and structuring their time to ensure their activity levels are as high as possible.

Stages Of Rehabilitation
At The Hospital

Ideally, the rehabilitation for burn injuries will commence on the first day of hospital admission, even if this means that is must coincide with a continual treatments such as operations. At this early point in time, it is important that particular practices are carried out to ensure the long term health of the victim.

The burns victim will usually require regular changes to the dressings and bandages that cover their exposed injuries, which can be extremely frightening to witness for them due to the often graphic visual nature of burn injuries. Thus, it may be pertinent for such burn victims to be taught coping and distraction techniques for these difficult moments.

It is also crucial that particular areas of the patient’s body such as the limbs and the injured areas are elevated to reduce the possibility of oedema, which is the build up of excessive fluid in limbs and body extremities that can lead to severe secondary injury in these areas.

Encouraging normal daily life

It is imperative to place much of the duty for the recovery on the injured party themselves, on the condition that this does not overwhelm them, especially in terms of facilitating their ability to complete ordinary tasks, such as bathing and getting dressed without excessive help.

A sense of responsibility for their own care and recovery gives a burns victim a greater sense of self-worth and encourages the redevelopment of their independence in order to eventually maximise it in an attempt for them to lead a normal life in the future.


It is of tremendous importance that a burns victim is well-informed of what they must do to contribute to their recovery in terms of self-care and wound management, as well as the reasons why they must do particular things, in order to reinforce the significance of certain tasks.

Educating them about their injuries gives them encouragement that the trial they are going through in the difficult process of rehabilitation will bear fruit. Additionally, it will help psychologically in providing the injured with sufficient knowledge to be able to talk to people about their injuries and recovery, even if this is just to their family to begin with, as a way of accepting their situation.

Types Of Therapy

One type of psychotherapy, called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is extremely effective. It generally targets those with or at risk of depression as a result of their injuries. It aims to discover how an individual’s thought processes affect their actions and the way their actions affect their thought processes. By targeting thought processes and actions that reinforce them, negativity in their thinking can be reduced while positive thoughts are encouraged. This can help to reduce stress levels and allow a person to look ahead to the future by wielding a positive outlook.

Depression of the injured person or a family member can hinder the physical recovery of the injured person, especially if a burns victim has PTSD, so different types of psychotherapy aim to address or avoid problems such as depression by tackling psychological and emotional frailties.

Occupational Therapy

Tasks that were previously considered simple by the injured person, such as bathing, are likely to be difficult for many of those suffering from serious burn injuries. This type of therapy aims to maximise a person’s independence by helping them to adapt to their new level of capability in order to perform the tasks they need to on a daily basis.


Burns victims have to adapt to their new level of capability in terms of mobility and movement. A physiotherapist will help a burns victim redevelop their strength and range of movement with an exercise regime tailored to their specific needs.

Joints affected by burns should be stretched and exercised a number of times a day so they can return to their full range of movement or as close as possible to it.

This can often be very arduous and demoralising as a process, so the support of the family is vital. This also links to the reason why the use of interactive games and interesting activities that incorporate remedial targets are a successful way of ensuring the gradual progression of a burns victim’s condition.

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