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Estimating the Size of a Burn

Topic Overview

You can quickly estimate the size of a burn by using the "rule of nines." This method divides the body's surface area into percentages.

Estimating burn size in adults

See a picture of the "rule of nines" for adults.

  • The front and back of the head and neck equal 9% of the body's surface area.
  • The front and back of each arm and hand equal 9% of the body's surface area.
  • The chest equals 9% and the stomach equals 9% of the body's surface area.
  • The upper back equals 9% and the lower back equals 9% of the body's surface area.
  • The front and back of each leg and foot equal 18% of the body's surface area.
  • The groin area equals 1% of the body's surface area.

Estimating burn size in babies and young children

See a picture of the "rule of nines" for babies and young children.

  • The front and back of the head and neck are 21% of the body's surface area.
  • The front and back of each arm and hand are 10% of the body's surface area.
  • The chest and stomach are 13% of the body's surface area.
  • The back is 13% of the body's surface area.
  • The buttocks are 5% of the body's surface area.
  • The front and back of each leg and foot are 13.5% of the body's surface area.
  • The groin area is 1% of the body's surface area.

The "rule of palm" is another way to estimate the size of a burn. The palm of the person who is burned (not fingers or wrist area) is about 1% of the body. Use the person's palm to measure the body surface area burned.

It can be hard to estimate the size of a burn. If you think a burn is a certain size but you are unsure, it is best to discuss the size of the burn with your doctor.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as of June 4, 2014

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