Fire, Cold, Chemicals, and More: The Types and Causes of Burn Injuries

When you think of burn injuries, you’re probably thinking of house fires or kitchen mishaps. These kinds of burns are, naturally, called heat burns. These kinds of burns are caused by fire, steam, or hot objects and liquids. However, fire or heat does not have to be involved to create a serious burn injury.

Types of Burns

First-degree burns are also called superficial burns. They are the mildest type of burns, but can still be very painful. After a first-degree burn, the affected skin may be red or slightly swollen, but there won’t be any blisters. Scalding water is a common cause of first-degree burns, and even severe sunburn can be classified as a first-degree burn.

Second-degree burns (partial thickness burns) go a little further, reaching the epidermis. Because of this, they are more painful than first-degree burns. These burns will blister, appear a deep red color, or be white and discolored.

Third-degree burns are the most severe. Called full thickness burns, they occur when both the epidermis and the layer of skin below are destroyed. Symptoms of a third-degree burn include leathery and dry skin, discolored skin (often black, yellow, white, or brown) and swelling. If the nerve endings are destroyed, pain might not accompany the burn. Once the epidermis and hair follicles have been destroyed, the burned skin will not grow back.

Burns can go up to the fourth, fifth, and even sixth degree, involving the burning of bones, ligaments, and tendons. These types of burn are very likely to be fatal.


  • Cold. It seems like an oxymoron, but cold burns are a very real thing! The most common type of cold weather burn is frostbite, which occurs when extremely cold or wet weather freezes the skin and underlying tissues.
  • Electricity. These burns are cause by electrical currents, which can pass through the body and damage tissues and even organs. Lightning is a natural cause of electric burns, while household items like batteries and electrical outlets also pose a risk for electricity burns.
  • Chemicals. Everyday items, like bleach, ammonia, and pool chlorination products can cause chemical burns. When they come into contact with skin, they can cause irritation and burning.
  • Radiation. People undergoing radiation therapy for cancer treatment may develop these types of burns. They can also be caused by tanning booths and sunlamps, x-rays, or too much time in the sun.
  • Friction. Sometimes called road rash, these are burns that occur when a person comes into contact with a road, carpet, or other hard surface. Friction burns are a common injury from motorcycle and bicycle accidents.


If a burn is minor, it can be treated at home with cold water, antibiotic ointments, and gauze bandages. However, if a burn is second-degree or higher, covers a large portion of the body, or is accompanied by other symptoms, like cardiac arrest or hypothermia, the victim should be taken to the hospital for medical treatment. As you can see, burns have a wide variety of causes— don’t discount a burn injury simply because there were not flames or hot materials involved!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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