Ouch! Skin burns hurt and demand instant cooling - best burns first aid.

Head for cold water at least, immediately you suffer skin burns. Milk with ice blocks is better. This stops the pain rapidly.

The pain, reddening, blistering and weeping you see, are the reaction of your skin to the thermal insult. There is no actual charring of skin except in very severe burns.

All this is produced by the chemical metabolic processes in the skin cells, which depend on the activity of numerous catalysts called enzymes.

Most of our body's enzymes like to work at normal body temperatures, and are less active at higher or lower temperatures.

The milk at near 32 degrees Fahrenheit, slows them down and prevents our skin from reacting to the heat. No reaction - no obvious skin burns.

Iced milk rather than water is used, as the water would force itself into our skin, whereas the milk withdraws water from the skin, reducing swelling. This is an osmotic effect.

Immerse the burnt part fully in the iced milk if you can, or cover the burnt area with cloth and continually pour iced milk over it (and collecting the milk to reuse it, adding ice blocks as needed.)

With very extensive burns, heat loss from the body limits the time this can be applied for. For smaller burns, continue until the part no longer pains when it is withdrawn from the milk. This is often over an hour.

Years ago one of my patients tipped boiling water into one gum boot. He was carrying a copper of recently boiled water when he tripped over his dog. He needed to sit up all that night, before the pain no longer returned on removing his leg from the iced milk.

His experience taught me a lesson, however. His foot looked and felt perfectly normal 2 or 3 days later, and so he put on his boots and went to work. That evening when he took his boots off, a lot of skin came off too.

I saw him at that stage, and the skin was deep red, weeping and bubbly. It had sheared off because the iced milk had not been able to inhibit the reaction in the deeper layers of his skin, and this part was then weakened.



I have been told, and would be very interested in hearing from anyone who knows of it, that men working in foundries would immediately put a burnt part up against the heat of the furnace, as that relieved the pain of the burn. I've not been able to confirm this more recently, with local contacts.

This would work on the same principle, but here inhibiting the enzymes by raising the temperature instead of cooling it.



Treatment by fever.

While on the subject of enzymes temperature dependence, we do have some which like it hot - in our immune system.

Germs have to be adapted to invading a (relatively) healthy body, with a temperature in the usual range, up to 98.4 or 37 Celsius.

One of our defenses is to shift the goal posts, by developing a fever. In years gone by, a treatment for syphilis was to give a person malaria as well.

Josef Issels was a famous German oncologist, who used conventional and alternative modalities very effectively. He included injections of bacterial extracts to force the body to run a fever, as part of his cancer treatment.

Cancer cells are more susceptible to damage by fever, than any healthy cells.

Treatment of fever is seldom needed and likely to be counter productive.

A small number of children do have febrile convulsions, from about 18 months to about 5 years. These are very frightening - I know, as one of our children had them.

This is not usually prevented by treating fever, as the first thing you know about an acute feverish illness in such children, is the convulsion.


Honey for treating burns

The Indian researcher Subrahmanyam reported trials¹ of this treatment, compared with various other treatments including silver suphdiazine cream, and found it more effective in promoting healing and reducing infection.


From skin burns to ...Skin ulcers due to venous stasis

Leg ulcers from venous stasis are usually on the inner side of the lower leg, a few inches above the ankle bone.

You can check to confirm this as the cause of an ulcer, by prodding the skin around it. It will be quite hard from swelling, caused by the high pressure in the skin veins which forces fluid out into the tissues.

The only wound treatment that matters here, is compression stocking or bandaging, to remove that swelling. For more on this, see the limb pain page


From skin burns to ...Skin wounds - to lick or not to lick, that is the question

Certainly licking will relieve itch of mosquito bites. Moisten it, allow to dry, then apply another layer of saliva. A few layers and the itch goes.

Concern has been aired re the licking of wounds, because of germs in saliva. Human bites are much more prone to getting infected, than say dog bites. This has been attributed to lack of oral hygiene of the biter.

If you take care of your oral hygiene you can probably lick away. A letter² to the Lancet June 14th 1997 described observations of Saliva nitric oxide production....

"Saliva contains antimicrobial substances including thiocyanate and lysozyme, and salivary glands concentrate nitrate, which is rapidly converted to nitrite by facultative anaerobes on the tongue surface.³ When acidified, nitrite is converted to nitric oxide, a powerful antimicrobial substance.."


Wound dressings

For ordinary non infected wounds, I like duoderm. This is a leathery adhesive dressing, which keeps the wound moist and still. Three different thicknesses allow for different amounts of exudation, but it is not suitable for an infected wound with a lot of exudate.



From skin burns page to home page

From skin burns page to limb pain page


References for skin burns page

1. Regarding skin burns and honey www.tga.gov.au/docs/pdf/cmec/honeysr.pdf

2. lancet June 14th 1997, 349, 1776 letter on "Wound licking and nitric oxide."

3. Duncan C, Dougall H, Johnston P, et al. Chemical generation of nitric oxide in the mouth from the enterosalivary circulation of dietary nitrate. Nat Med 1995; 1: 546–51.




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