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 children.
◉ 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.