Home remedies can ease the pain of minor burns

Minor household burns are painful. They usually cause redness and sometimes blistering. Cold water is the standard first-aid recommendation. Cold tap water is the right temperature to stop tissue damage (Wound Repair and Regeneration, September-October 2008). Experts recommend holding the burned area under cold water for at least 20 minutes, but even 10 minutes can be helpful (Burns, August 2010). Needless to say, severe burns require immediate emergency medical attention.

The great thing about home remedies for mild burns is that you know instantly whether they are working. Either the pain goes away, or it doesn’t. Many readers also report that the redness and blistering may be prevented.

One of the most surprising approaches to minor household burns is soy sauce. We first heard about this remedy more than a decade ago. A listener called in to our radio program to describe his experience. Then we heard from a reader:

“On your public radio show, I heard a man call in recommending soy sauce for burns. ‘How weird is that?’ I thought. But then, as I took a loaf of bread out of the oven, the inner edge of my thumb and the fleshy pad underneath hit the metal rim of the pan. I expected a painful burn. Since I had nothing else at hand, I decided to try the soy sauce remedy.

“The pain eased up in less than a minute, the soreness did not materialize and even the redness went away! It may be weird, but it certainly did work!”

We have since heard from lots of readers and listeners that soy sauce can prevent redness and blistering, and ease the pain from a kitchen burn. An Army Ranger told us that U.S. Special Forces medics also use soy sauce for combat-related burns.

We haven’t seen any research on soy sauce for treating burns, but materials scientists are working with soy proteins to develop new wound dressing materials (Burns, November 2015).

Another popular home remedy for kitchen burns is right in the refrigerator: cold yellow mustard. One reader told us:

“During a power outage, I burned four fingers while removing hot glass from a kerosene lantern. I first used cool water, then soy sauce, without much relief. I quickly went to your website and searched for ‘burns.’ I found the mustard remedy.

“I put on a sterile plastic glove and squirted yellow mustard in the fingers and left this on for an hour. Immediate relief!”

We were astonished to read this dramatic testimonial: “I was an orderly in a hospital emergency room in 1969. One evening we had a teenage boy come to the ER with his employer, from a fast-food restaurant. He had inadvertently grabbed for a falling french fry basket, and his arm was submerged in the frying machine. His boss lathered his arm with mustard, wrapped it in saran wrap and brought him in. We anticipated the worst, but once the mustard was washed off, the skin was barely even pink. We were all amazed. I’m a believer ever since that day.”

Other remedies that readers have found helpful include vinegar, aloe vera, white school glue and vanilla extract. None of these home remedies has ever been tested in a scientific manner. But if the pain disappears quickly and the skin does not redden or blister, it seems worth a try as long as the burn is not too serious.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Their syndicated radio show can be heard on public radio. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

2018 King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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