The degree system is how people measure the intensity of burns. The higher the degree, the more severe the burn will be. Third-degree burns have a common reputation of being the worst burn a person may suffer. In reality, burn degrees can advance even higher and inflict catastrophic, even fatal injuries.

Healthline explains that burn degrees can advance past the third degree to the fourth, fifth and sixth degrees. People generally do not hear about these burns because they do not happen as often, yet it is important to be aware of them as any of these burns can constitute a medical emergency.

Fourth-degree burns

While a third-degree burn can penetrate through the skin, a fourth-degree burn can go deeper into the fat of the body to expose muscles and even to the bone. Fourth-degree burns have a charred look, though they may also appear white. Since fourth-degree burns can damage nerves, they do not produce pain, but this does not mean the burn is not a threat to your life. To the contrary, a fourth-degree burn is an emergency situation and will require urgent medical assistance.

Fifth and sixth degree burns

Burns that go higher than the fourth degree destroy more of the body. A fifth-degree burn destroys muscle and usually exposes bone. A sixth-degree burn is so severe that it penetrates all the way to the bone and may be enough to kill a person at the scene. Even if the burn victim survives, the amount of damage to the burned area will be extensive.

Where severe burns may happen

Generally, you are at the greatest risk of a high degree burn if you work at a place that involves flames or hot chemicals. Hot irons, ovens and open flames may serve as causes for devastating burns. You might also suffer a severe burn if a building you are in catches fire or suffers an explosion.

The consequences of a fourth-degree or higher burn can be devastating. The burn destruction to a part of your body may result in amputation. Organ damage could be permanent. The injuries may hamper your ability to work and require you to retrain for a new job. You may also suffer a permanent disability and require drastic changes in your life in order to function and preserve whatever quality of life is possible.