Burn Types


A scald is a burn caused by contact with hot liquid or steam. It can present in a superficial, partial thickness or full-thickness burn. The most common place for a scald is on the face, hands and arms and chest through a young child pulling a cup or drinking vessel down from a table or bench or in the throat through drinking milk or drinks which are too hot. Due to babies and young children’s skin being thinner and more delicate than adults, it takes very little time for a burn to become serious and life threatening.

Flame Burns

A flame burn occurs when the skin comes into contact with the heat of a flame. We use fire in our everyday lives which makes it a source of attraction for many children and they are often unaware of the dangers it can present and the precautions adults think of when using fire, as they may not necessarily make them explicit. A lit cigarette burns at 5850C, a candle at 1000oC, and a bush fire at 20000C or above causing significant damage to anything which comes into its path.

Thermal Burns (Commonly referred to as Radiation burn or Sunburn)

Melanocytes are active cells which are produced in the Epidermis, our outer layer of skin which, when exposed to radiation, produce Melanin. Melanin absorbs the ultraviolet energy from the sun and transforms it into the brown pigment which gives us a tanned appearance. It also helps to prevent sunburn and cell damage.

Friction Burns

Friction burns are caused by an aggressive moving contact with any hard or rough surface such as roads, carpets, or other floor surfaces. Injuries caused by friction are usually both an abrasion and a heat burn and generally happen through a fall or vehicle accident, especially motor bike, pushbike or skateboard. A friction burn can be quite painful due to the large number of nerve endings which have been exposed to the air.

Electrical Burns

Electricity, when uncontained will always take the shortest path to the earth. As people are conductors of electricity, this can mean that an electrical current such as lightening may arc towards a body to reach the earth quickly. When an electrical current passes through the body it burns tissue along the path it takes, often causing quite severe internal burning. With electrocution, an entry and exit point will always be evident and if the skin is moist through water or perspiration, burning of the skin will also be a result of contact.

Contact Burns

Contact burns happen when the skin comes in to contact with a hot or extremely cold material.

Chemical and Acid Burns

Most chemicals that cause burns are either strong acids or bases. A variety of household products fit this description including Bleach, Concrete mix, Drain / toilet cleaners, Metal cleaners and pool chlorinators. 

In an emergency call 000
Remove any clothing and jewellery from the affected area to allow effective cooling of the burn.
Cool the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes - this will stop the burning process and also help ease the pain.
Cover the burn with a clean lint free cloth or if it is a large area, cover loosely with cling wrap to lessen the chance of infection.
Seek medical advice if the burn is larger than a 20 cent piece or on the face, hands, feet or groin area.