Burns are one of the most common types of at-home minor injuries. It’s much too easy to inadvertently grab a hot plate, or bump a wrist on the inside of the oven and end up with a red, painful injury. Burns can range from a minor pain that goes away shortly, to a severe burn which goes much deeper into the skin and leaves more damage behind. Thankfully, in part because humans have been getting burns since they were able to cook over a fire, many natural treatments can be used to help heal a burn and make it less painful.
Burns can be caused by many different types of events, but they are generally due to an accident. Some of the most common causes from burns are electrical, heat, light, chemical and even friction. The different types of burns cause a different reaction with the human body and should be treated accordingly.
Burns from Heat
This is the most common form of burn, known as a thermal burn. Thermal burns occur when flesh is contacted with a source of heat. The cause for this type of burn can include fire, hot liquids, steam, or any object that has been heated. The most common form of this burn happens in the kitchen at home. These burns are generally caused by picking up a dish that is too hot, spilling coffee, or bumping a hot pan when baking. These types of burns generally are in the minor injury category and heal within hours or a couple of days. However, there are some forms of thermalbased burns that can be more severe: quite often an event such as a kitchen fire results in a more extreme burn. Another form of thermal burn is known as scalding. This is where the term “It’s scalding hot” comes from. Scalding comes from liquid burns, such as spilled coffee or a tipped pan, and scalding burns can be deeper and harder to induce healing. Vapors, such as steam, can actually scald the skin, or if inhaled may scald the nose, mouth, and in extreme cases even the lungs.
Burns from Chemicals
Chemical burns result from getting some form of chemical on the skin. Some people can be more sensitive to these types of burns than others. The chemicals most often involved in these types of burns come from everyday things such as cleaning solutions. Ammonia is a particularly harsh chemical that should always be used with gloves, as ammonia is more likely to leave chemical burns. Some of the other household chemicals that can cause burns include chemicals used to remove paint, chemicals used in gardening, and any other industrial chemicals in the home. Chemicals cannot only burn the skin if they come in contact with it, but they also release a toxic vapor which can burn human air passages, as well as the lungs.
Burns Caused By Electricity
Electrical burns can range from minor to severe. Electrical burns in the home often come from an outlet that isn’t working properly, or an appliance that is faulty. More severe types of electrical burns can include those from electrical lines outdoors, or in the most extreme case, lightning.
Sunburns are a common type of burn. These burns are usually minor but they can be very painful. Sunburns generally come from overexposure to the sun, but may also come from too much time spent in a tanning bed.
Friction burns are a somewhat common type of burn, and come from skin being rubbed against a material at a rapid rate, or repeatedly. Rope burns are a type of friction burn that can come from allowing a rope to slide too quickly through the hands without proper protection.
Many burns can be prevented. It’s important to ensure that your smoke detectors are up to date, and that they have fresh, working batteries. Also, be sure that there is a fire extinguisher close to the kitchen. This can help to prevent home fires. Kitchen burns can also be prevented by ensuring that the proper tools are being used. Never grab a pan without first checking to ensure the temperature is safe, and the same should go for dishes that have been heated. Potholders and oven mitts are one of the best defenses against common kitchen burns. Avoid placing your face over or near anything that is boiling, and make sure to tilt the lid away from the body when pouring the pan’s contents into a strainer, bowl or plate to help avoid scalding. Pans should always have their handles turned to the side to avoid the possibility of curious children grabbing the pan and pulling it down on themselves. Turning the handles to the side can also prevent accidental bumps which can cause a pan to fall.
Chemical burns can be prevented by ensuring that you follow any manufacturers’ instructions. All chemicals should be used in a well-ventilated area and with the proper safety barriers in place. Be sure that any gloves being used are rated for the chemicals that they are being used with, as some chemicals can melt a standard glove.
Light burns or sunburns can be prevented by ensuring that the skin is covered. This can be accomplished with either sunscreen or clothing. For friction, burns from rope can be prevented by wearing work-grade gloves to ensure that the rope and skin have a barrier between them.
Burns are easy to identify, leaving the skin red, swollen, and sometimes even blistered. However, self-diagnosis should be limited only to minor burns. Any burns larger than the palm or which seem like they’ve penetrated the skin deeply, or burns which involve chemicals, electricity, or are excessively inflamed should be checked by a physician. Also, if the burn is accompanied by any other symptoms it should be checked by a medical professional. Be on the lookout for signs of shock, infection or fever.
First-degree burns and even small second-degree burns can be treated at home, naturally. One of the best and most long-used treatments for burns comes from the Aloe Vera plant. This plant grows in long, thick leaf-like stalks that contain a gel. Natural Aloe can be used right from the plant by removing one of the leaves and spreading the gel over the wounded skin. Aloe can also be purchased in gel form, but make sure to look for a 100% natural product.
Lavender oil can also help with burns. Not only does it help to soothe the burn itself, lavender has also been proven to provide an overall sense of calm in the world of aroma therapy.
St John’s Wort can help the process of healing and make the burn heal faster, meaning there is less likelihood of scaring. If a salve containing this herb cannot be found, it can easily be prepared by steeping the herbs in vegetable oil.
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- Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
- Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)
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