Burn injuries cause 265,000 deaths worldwide every year and affect the lives of millions who become disabled. About 4500 Americans die of burn injuries every year and another 10,000 die of burn-related infections. Over 450,000 Americans get treatment for burns every year, and that includes 40,000 who go into the hospital. Children are particularly prone to these injuries and about half of burn patients are below 18. Elderly people are often at extra risk because they have other health problems that make living with burn injuries all the more difficult.
The severity of a burn depends on how hot the skin gets and how long the burn lasts. The location is also important, because skin varies in thickness, water and oil content, the amount of subcutaneous fat, and the number of blood vessels from one location in the body to another. So three main factors affect severity: time, temperature, and location. The diagnosis of a burn injury is based on how deep the injury is.
Choices about long term burn care depend on the severity of the burn injury as well as whether the patient suffered lung injury from inhaling smoke or chemicals and whether there were pre-existing medical problems.
Long term care presents additional challenges. There are now more than 100 specialized burn treatment centers in the United States. Learn about burn clinics, who they treat, and where you can find one.