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Burns and the Integumentary System

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Burns and the Integumentary System

            One of the most common injuries that affect people is a burn. As its name implies, burns are a type of injury that can be caused by sunlight, heat, fire, electricity, or chemicals, (Familydoctor.org, 2009) among others. However before one is able to understand in detail the different degrees of burns and the treatment for each of them, it is first necessary to know which part of the human body is affected by burns.

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            When a person suffers a burn, the first part of the body affected is the skin, which, in turn is part of a larger organization of structures called the integumentary system.

This system of the human body consists of the skin as well as other accessory structures such as the glands, hair, and, nails (University of Pittsburgh, 2003). Basically, the skin is divided into three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis (University of Pittsburgh, 2003), which are also part of the criteria used to classify the degree of burns.

The epidermis is the uppermost. The dermis, on the other hand, is composed of elastic and collagen fibers as well as irregular connective tissue that are very dense (Medicine.net, 2009). It is also where nerve endings, blood vessels, smooth muscle, hair follicles, lymphatic vessels, and glands are located. Finally, the hypodermis is the last layer of the skin which connects it to the muscles and bones beneath. It is also where certain nerves and blood vessels are supplied (University of Pittsburgh, 2003).

            As mentioned above, having a comprehensive knowledge of the structure of the integumentary system, particularly the skin, is necessary in the classification of the different degrees of burns. Basically, there are three types of burns: first degree, second degree, and third degree.  A first degree burn mainly affects the epidermis (Burlington County College, 2006). It is mainly a superficial injury that causes inflammation of the skin and also redness and pain (Medicine.net, 2009).

            A second degree burn, on the other hand, affects the epidermis but also the upper part of the dermis (Burlington County College, 2006). Like a first degree burn, this type of burn not only causes swelling, pain, and redness but also blisters on the skin. These blisters occur when dermis and the epidermis separate from each other and the space between them becomes filled with a liquid called serous fluid (Burlington County College, 2006). Finally, a third degree affects all the layers of the skin (Medicine.net, 2009). This type of burn can cause a loss in body fluid as well as shock and also poses a high risk of infection (Burlington County College). Furthermore, since nerve endings are destroyed, the burned area in this type of burn is usually free of pain.

            Moreover, another importance aspect in assessment of a burn aside from its depth is the percentage of the body burned. Today, measuring the total area burned is done through the “rule of nines,” (Medicine.net, 2009) which means that the surface area of an adult body’s different parts constitutes nine percent of the total. These parts and their corresponding percentages include the head (9%), the front chest (9%), the front abdomen (9%), Upper, middle and lower back and the buttocks (18%), each arm (9%), each palm (1%), the groin (1%), and each leg (18%), which constitutes both the front (9%) and the back (9%) (Medicine.net, 2009). Meaning to say, if both arms (18%) and both palms (2%) are burned, 20% of the body is considered burned.

            Furthermore, the treatment of a burn depends on the degree of a burn a person has. For first degree burns, the affected area must first be soaked in cool water and then treated with a skin care product such as an antibiotic ointment or aloe vera. A dry gauze bandage can also be applied over the burned area and over-the-counter pain relievers can also be taken in (Familydoctor.org, 2009). On the other hand, for second degree burns, the affected area should also soaked in cool water and should be wrapped by cool, wet, and clean clothes for a few minutes every day. An antibiotic cream and gauze should also be used on the burned area but they should be done and replaced everyday (Familydoctor.org, 2009). In addition, a doctor should immediately be consulted if swelling, redness, or pus appears (Familydoctor.org, 2009). Finally, for third degree burns, which are the most severe types, the affected person should see a doctor or go to a hospital at once. The clothes that are stuck to the burn shouldn’t be removed nor should the affected area be soaked with water or treated with an ointment (Familydoctor.org, 2009). Moreover, the burn should be covered with a sterile bandage or a clean cloth until medical assistance is sought.


Burlington County College. (2006). Integumentary System. Retrieved January 22, 2009 from http://staff.bcc.edu/faculty_websites/pslavin/pdf/Integumentary%20System.pdf.

Familydoctor.org. (2009). Burns: Taking Care of Burns. Retrieved January 22, 2009 from http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/healthy/firstaid/after-injury/638.html.

Medicine.net. (2009). Burns. Retrieved January 22, 2009 from http://www.medicinenet.com/burns/article.htm.

University of Pittsburgh. (2003). Integumentary System. Retrieved January 22, 2009 from http://www.pitt.edu/~anat/Other/Integument/Integ.htm.


Cite this Burns and the Integumentary System

Burns and the Integumentary System. (2017, Feb 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/burns-and-the-integumentary-system/

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