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What are life-threatening consequences of severe burns?

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Quick Answer

Some life-threatening consequences of severe burns include infection, low blood volume and low body temperature, according to Mayo Clinic. Other potential problems include those with the respiratory system or bones and joints.

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Because burns leave the skin susceptible to bacterial infection, they increase the risk of developing sepsis, notes Mayo Clinic. Sepsis is a serious potentially fatal infection that affects the whole body and travels through the bloodstream. It can cause organ failure and shock, and it progresses rapidly.

Burns also cause loss of fluids and damage to the blood vessels that can result in low blood volume. Severe fluid and blood loss prevents the heart from having enough blood to sufficiently supply the body. When a large area of the skin is burned, body heat is lost and the body's overall temperature drops. The skin controls the temperature of the body but damaged skin may lose this ability.

Breathing in smoke and hot air may damage the airways and cause respiratory difficulty. Smoke in the lungs can lead to respiratory failure. Deep burns can cause limitations in the movement of the joints and bones. Scar tissue can cause contractions of the skin, tendons and muscles. This can lead to joints being permanently pulled out of position.

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