Soothing burns

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Feb 13, 2014

Most people have experienced a minor burn some time in their lives, such as a sunburn or a scald caused by hot cooking oil. Odds are, however, few have treated it right.

You have heard the advice from well-meaning family and friends - rub it with toothpaste, honey or ice. But these home remedies may not work.

Worse, some may cause more harm than good.

"Up to this day, we still hear of old wives' tales of using toothpaste or soya sauce to treat minor burns," said Professor Colin Song, a visiting consultant at Singapore General Hospital's Department of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery.

"There are many other effective types of first-aid care for acute burn injuries."

The main thing to do with a minor burn is to cool it down.

Rapidly cooling the tissue immediately after a burn injury goes a long way in limiting the damage caused by contact of living tissue to the thermal source, said Prof Song.

Holding a burnt arm or leg under cool running water for a good long while will reduce the pain and risk of scarring, said Ms Lin Qun, a senior pharmacist at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH).

A cool wet towel can also be used to soothe a burn wound. But do not soak the whole body in cold water as this may result in hypothermia, in which the body's temperature drops below normal, said Prof Song.

Currently, the only burn dressing available on the market is Aluminaid Burn Dressings. It is said to work by quickly withdrawing heat from first- and second-degree burn injuries, claimed Mr Steve Carroll, Aluminaid's chief technical officer.

These are to be used immediately after the burn as they have a thermal radiator layer that helps to conduct heat quickly out of the wound into the surroundings, thereby relieving pain and stopping burn damage from permeating to deeper tissue layers.

Sold at Unity pharmacies and priced from $2.95, the product was launched this year.

Ms Lin said she and her colleagues have not had any experience with the new product at KTPH.

"This series of product seems to be targeting burn relief... Do check with the pharmacist or any health-care professional if you need more information on the product before purchasing it."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Feb 13, 2014

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