Despite all the advice to the contrary people continue to use sprays, creams, aloe vera moisturisers, butter, or even olive oil on burns according to the Irish Association of Plastic Surgery (IAPS ). Following a spate of house fires Dr Patricia Eadie, president of IAPS, reminded the public that using anything but clean, running, water can make a burn much worse.
She said, “As plastic surgeons we worry about people who come to us to have severe burns repaired. Either they, or their family or friends, believe, with the best will in the world, that using burn sprays, aloe vera skin cream, butter, or even cooking oil is a way of limiting burn damage. These so-called remedies may be old wives’ tales but they are not true and they can make matters much worse. The simplest, cleanest, easiest and cheapest way of dealing with a burn, assuming it is not extensive and needs hospitalisation, is to run the burn under running cold water for up to 10 minutes. This has the effect of drawing the heat out – away from the flesh, and this can have a dramatic beneficial effect on lessening the impact of a burn. In the case of burns in places that cannot be easily placed under a running tap the burn area should be placed under a cold shower for at least 10 minutes. People should then see their family doctor or attend at an A&E clinic immediately.”
Dr Eadie added, “The Association of Plastic Surgeons wants to the public to know how life-changing a bad burn can be. In a severe case where a plastic surgeon needs to perform a skin graft the consultant surgeon needs to take skin from one part of the patient’s body and graft it on to the burn. Obviously that skin can’t be taken off areas like the face, head or hands. If a patient has 60 per cent degree burns then they only have 40 per cent of their skin left from which grafts can be taken and therefore there won’t be enough skin to graft. Though these are extremes we still see up to 15 of these heart-breaking cases every year where artificial skin grafts are required. However, with just a little extra care many of these burns could be avoided.”