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What is a fourth degree burn?

Doctors measure the severity of a burn by degrees. Many people are aware of first through third-degree burns because they are the most common burns. However, the burn scale actually goes higher. It is possible to suffer a fourth-degree burn, which would constitute a serious medical emergency.

If you work in an oil field or an industrial workplace that uses hot chemicals, a fourth-degree burn could happen due to dangerous conditions. Here is a look at the kind of harm a fourth-degree burn could inflict on you.

Damage from a fourth-degree burn

A third-degree burn could damage your skin down to the fatty tissue. As Healthline explains, a fourth-degree burn can inflict worse harm, penetrating deeper to destroy muscle tissue, tendons and nerves. Nerve damage is especially notable because you might not even feel pain from a fourth-degree burn. This is because your nerves receive so much damage that they cannot send pain signals to your brain.

Infection risks from a fourth-degree burn

Since a burn breaks your skin, you are at risk of an infection like bacteria entering your body. A fourth-degree burn may penetrate deeply enough to put your body at such risk of infection that your body may experience sepsis. This is when your body’s defense systems overreact to the presence of an infection and start to damage tissue and organs. This could lead to septic shock and possibly death.

Treatment and recovery

Recovery from a fourth-degree burn will depend on different factors. Depending on the severity of the burn, your skin may not be able to generate new tissue and you will need skin grafts. You might also require physical therapy if the burn has damaged your nerves and muscles. You may require surgery on joints and muscles to help you regain muscle function.

A severe burn may also produce emotional distress. You may have to deal with PTSD stemming from the burn incident. A fourth-degree burn might also disable you or necessitate an amputation. These possible outcomes make it crucial that your workplace engages in proper safety procedures to prevent destructive burns.