Natural Remedies for Burns
People suffer burns when their skin is exposed to extreme heat caused by fire or hot liquids, chemicals, electricity, or radiation. Up to two million Americans seek medical care for burns every year. In most cases, burns occur at home, but they can also happen at work, or result from motor vehicle accidents. More that 50,000 people are hospitalized due to burn injuries each year in the US, many of whom are children.
Burns may cause complications if not treated properly. The skin acts as a natural barrier to infection, and when it is burned, that protection is lost, and infection can occur. Aside from infection, another serious consequence of severe burns is dehydration.
Depending on the severity of tissue damage, burns are classified into first, second, third and fourth degree burns. It is important to distinguish these types of burns because treatment plans for each may differ significantly.
People who sustain first degree burns will experience symptoms similar to those of a mild sunburn – redness and pain on the outer surface of the skin. Those who develop blisters under the skin have second degree burns, which are also painful and red, with some oozing. Third and fourth degree burns are more serious in nature and involve deeper structures such as muscles, tendons, bones and fat. There may be no pain because of the destruction of nerves, and the affected sites are charred and stiff. Third and fourth degree burns are medical emergencies, which need treatment in hospital facilities, preferably in a burn unit. First and second degree burns may be treated at home or in a medical clinic. If the face or the genitals are affected, the patient must receive immediate medical attention.
Natural Remedies for Minor Burns
Minor burns (first-degree and second-degree burns) that are no larger than 3 inches in diameter may be treated with simple first aid measures:
- Cool the burn under cool running water for 10 to 15 minutes until pain subsides. You can also immerse the affected area in cool water or apply cold compresses. This conducts heat away from your skin and reduces swelling.
- Do not put ice directly on the burn. This can cause your body to become too cold, which can lead to further damage on the skin.
- Cover the area with sterile gauze bandage, but avoid putting too much pressure on the burned skin. This will keep air off the burn, reduce pain and protect the blistered skin.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, others), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Avoid giving aspirin to children.
- Do not apply butter, egg whites, or ointment to the burn, which can cause infection.
- Do not break blisters because this can increase your risk for infection.
Minor burns may be treated with topical herbal remedies, which are applied externally to minor burns. These include:
- Aloe vera, which may be applied as a gel or cream. This common household remedy is made aloe leaf, and is used as an ingredient in many commercial skin care products like lotions. It contains compounds that help reduce inflammation and pain and help stimulate skin repair and growth. It also acts as an effective moisturizing agent. Apply to the burned area, three to four times daily, for soothing relief and healing. However, aloe should never be applied to open wounds.
- Calendula officinalis (pot marigold), is used as an ointment. However, you must test it on a small area of your skin first for allergic reaction.
- Gotu kola (or Centella asiatica) is used as a 1% cream to help repair the skin tissue.
- Propolis is a resin produced by bees and has been used to treat skin wounds. Propolis, when applied to minor burns, heals wounds as well as silver sulfadiazine, a prescription ointment used for treating burns. However, do not use propolis if you are allergic to salicylates or bee products.
Minor burns usually heal with home treatments, although some pigment changes on the skin may occur. Watch out for symptoms of infection, such as fever, worsening pain, redness, swelling, and oozing. Seek medical help if you suspect infection or if your symptoms do not improve.
Nutritional Remedies for Burns
Good nutrition helps promote tissue healing and repair. The following tips may help improve your healing and promote general health:
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits (ex. blueberries, tomatoes, cherries), and vegetables (squash, bell peppers). High doses of vitamin C have been found to help reduce fluid requirements in serious burns.
- Avoid eating refined foods (ex. white bread, pasta, and sugar).
- For protein, eat less red meat and more lean meat, cold water fish, soy or beans.
- Use healthy oils (ex. olive oil, vegetable oil).
- Avoid trans-fatty acids, which are found in commercially baked goods (ex. cookies, cakes, crackers), donuts, onion rings, French fries, margarine and processed foods.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.
- Drink six to eight glasses of water daily.
Health Supplements for Burns
- Daily multivitamins, containing antioxidant vitamins A, B-complex C, and E, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
- Fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, to help reduce inflammation, promote healing and immunity. These nutrients may also be provided by cold-water fish, like salmon and halibut.
- Vitamin C, which helps wound healing by enhancing tissue growth and promoting strength.
- Vitamin E, which promotes healing. It may also be used topically after the burn heals and new skin form.
- Coenzyme Q10, for antioxidant activity, improves immune function.
- L-glutamine, which supports immunity and gastrointestinal health.
- Probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus, to protect the gut when taking antibiotics, since this can upset the balance of bacteria in the intestines. Probiotics contain “friendly” bacteria, which can help restore balance, improve gastrointestinal function and promote immune health.
Mayo Clinic. Burns: First aid. http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-burns/basics/art-20056649