Known as the largest organ in the body, the skin is the body’s outer covering in humans. Its multiple layers safeguard the underlying muscles, bones, ligaments and internal organs from the external environment. It is the protective barrier whose primary role is to defend the body against pathogens and prevent excessive loss of water. Its other function include sensation, heat regulation, evaporation control, aesthetics and communication, storage and synthesis of vitamin D, excretion of bodily wastes, absorption and water resistance.
The skin has two main layers: epidermisand dermis. The outermost layer of the skin is the epidermis. It acts as the main barrier from infection and waterproofing. No blood vessels are found in the epidermis. Beneath the epidermis is the dermis which consists of connective tissues and cushions the body from stress and strain. Many nerve endings are found in this layer. It also contains hair follicles, sweat glands, blood vessels and other glands. Although the hypodermis is not exactly part of the skin, it is found beneath the dermis, consisting of loose connective tissue and elastin. It attaches the skin to the underlying muscles and bones, supplying it with blood vessels and nerves.
Burning is a fairly common injury to the flesh or skin.There are several causes for burns. The most common are heat (flames and hot liquids), electricity, chemicals, radiation or friction. These burns differ in type, depending on the severity or how deep the damage is caused through the skin. The most superficial burn is first-degree burn progressing to the deepest burn which is fourth-degree.
First-degree burns are the easiest to treat because they are the least harmless of burns. This can occur from prolonged sun exposure, touching a hot stove or as simple as direct contact with hot leather on a car seat. Sunburn is a common example for first-degree burns. Symptoms include bright pink or red color on this skin. Usually, there are no blisters. It is characterized by intense pain and tenderness. To treat first-degree burns, clean water, preferably warm, should be used to alleviate pain and keep the skin clean to avoid acquiring any infection. Topical lotions or ointment like Aloe Vera may be applied to reduce swelling and allow comfort. Healing time is within five to ten days.
There are two subtypes for second degree burns. Superficial partial thickness extends to more superficial layer of the dermis, calledthe papillary, while deep partial thicknessextends to the deeper layer of the dermis, or also known as reticular. The formation of blisters usually indicates second-degree burns. Whereas superficial partial thickness is very painful, deep partial thickness leads to a pressure and discomfort sensation. There is more pain associated with second-degree burns due to the presence of nerve endings in the dermis layers. To treat this type of burn, warm water should be gently run over the affected area for several minutes to avoid infection. Ice should not be applied to these types of wounds as it may cause further damage. Use sterile gauze to cover the affected area and protect it from infection. Moreover, topical creams should not be applied and blisters should not be burst.
The most severe burn is said to be the third-degree burns due to the extent of the damage which has already reached the muscles, tendons, ligaments and possibly organs. Third-degree burns have reached through the entire dermis and appear closer to white hue as the burn deepens. There is no longer pain in the third degree due to the damage on the nerves. These types of burns require emergency medical services as soon as possible. A sterile environment is essential as risks for infection are particularly high. It is necessary for burn victims of this degree to receive skin grafts.
Fourth-degree burns extend through the entire skin, completely destroying the underlying fats, muscles and bones. It is appears black and charred with eschar or piece of dead tissue. Sometimes, amputation is required. In some cases, it leads to death.
Although burns are fairly common injuries, they should not be treated lightly. First aid must be administered to reduce risk for damages. Several organizations and institutions such as St Mark James offer a wide range of first aid courses that are made available to the public.