Node view

Determining the Seriousness of a Burn

British Columbia Specific Information

Burns can be serious injuries. If you have a serious burn injury, call 9-1-1 right away. For more information, or if you are not sure if you should contact a health care provider, call 8-1-1.

According to the World Health Organization, a burn is considered serious if it:

  • covers more than 15% of the body surface of an adult;
  • covers more than 10% of the body surface of a child;
  • involves someone who is very young, elderly, in poor health, or who has a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes;
  • is a third degree burn;
  • occurs on your face, hands, feet or genitals;
  • encircles your leg or arm; or
  • is associated with trauma.


Smoke inhalation is also a serious injury and requires medical attention right away. For more information, see the World Health Organization handout on the Management of Burns.

Topic Overview

The seriousness of a burn is determined by:

What to think about

It is important to watch for signs of infection during the healing of any burn.


Current as of:
February 26, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine