The severity of friction burns, like all burns, is measured through a combination of the depth of the burn—how many layers of skin are involved—and the overall size of the burn as measured in percent of body surface area injured. Burn depth is expressed in degrees of burn:
- First-degree friction burns are superficial and only affect the epidermis. These are as likely to be referred to as skin abrasions as friction burns.
- Second-degree friction burns have completely scraped away the epidermis and are now affecting the dermis. This is where rug burns develop bleeding and, in some rare cases, weeping clear fluid.
- Third-degree friction burns are extremely rare and occur when the injury has completely removed both the epidermis and dermis, exposing the subcutaneous layer, or muscle underneath. The amount of sustained force necessary for third-degree rug burns make them highly unlikely.
Different types of burns have unique characteristics and complications. For example, rug burns can happen to hands, feet, face, and genitalia, but in the case of facial injury, rug burns do not come with the same types of complications that thermal burns do.
In other words, a patient is not in danger of inhaling super-heated air when getting a rug burn the way they could when getting a thermal burn.
Burns of any type that only include first-degree injuries are not considered severe. When looking at a burn area, only count second or third degree. Certain types of burns are considered more severe than others based on the body part that is affected. Burns of the hands, feet, face, and genitalia are treated as severe burns.