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Severe Burns

What Are Severe Burns?

Severe burns cause critical injury to skin or other tissues due to heat, electricity, radiation or chemicals. They can destroy your underlying fat, muscle and bone tissue. Burns covering a high percentage of your body surface area are also considered severe.

Severe burns can cause serious medical complications. They require emergency care.

Levels of burns include:

  • First-degree – Affect outer skin, causing painful swelling and redness
  • Second-degree – Affect outer and inner skin, causing painful swelling, redness and blistering
  • Third-degree – Affect deep skin layers, causing white or black burned skin and pain or numbness

Types of Burns

Some common types of burns include:

Minor Burns

Minor burns are first-degree burns or second-degree burns less than 2 to 3 inches wide. 

Major Burns

Major burns include:

  • Third-degree burns and second-degree burns more than 2 or 3 inches wide
  • Burns on hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks
  • Burns across a major joint
Thermal Burns

Thermal burns are the most common, typically from house fires, traffic accidents or electrical accidents. Causes of thermal burns include:

  • Heat or fire
  • Steam or boiling liquid
  • Contact with hot metals
  • Radiation from sunburn, cancer treatment or welding
  • Electrical current
  • Chemicals


Symptoms of severe burns may include:

  • Blisters
  • Pain, swelling or numbness
  • Shock (pale and clammy skin, bluish lips, weakness and confusion)
  • Red, white or blackened skin

Treatment Options

Temple Health provides severe burns treatment at the Temple Burn Center – one of the region’s only burn centers at a Level 1 trauma center, supported by a leading academic medical center. Treatments include:

  • Emergency room evaluation, stabilization and cross-specialty treatment
  • Acute care in a dedicated, state-of-the-art intensive care unit (ICU)
  • Skilled surgery in specialized facilities from specialists in infection control, wound care, scar management and reconstructive surgery
  • Skin grafts to transplant tissue from another part of your body to the burned area
  • Outpatient follow-up care and rehabilitation

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of a severe burn, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat severe burns.