A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 11

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Chapter XI


Burns and Scalds

Very often when a man's clothes catch fire, we get into a panic, and, instead of helping the injured, make matters worse by our ignorance. It is our duty, therefore, to know exactly what to do in such cases.

The person whose clothes have caught fire should not lose his presence of mind. If the fire is only at one edge of the cloth, it should at once be squeezed out with the hands; but if it has spread over the whole cloth or a large portion of it, the man should at once lie down and roll on the floor. If a thick cloth like a carpet be available, it should at once be wrapped round his body; and if water is at hand, it should also be poured over it. As soon as the fire has been put out, we should find out if there are burns in any part of the body. The cloth would generally stick to the body where there are burns, in which case it should not be forcibly torn off, but gently snipped off with a piece of scissors, leaving the affected parts undisturbed, and taking care to see that the skin does not come off. Immediately after this, poultices of pure mud should be applied to all these places, and kept in position by bandages. This will instantly relieve the burning, and ease the patient's suffering. The poultices may as well be applied over the portions of the cloth which stick on to the body. They should be renewed as soon as they begin to get dry; there is no reason to fear the touch of cold water.

Where this sort of first aid has not been rendered, the following directions will be found very useful. Fresh plantain leaves well smeared with olive or sweet oil should be applied over the burns. If plantain leaves are not available, pieces of cloth may be used. A mixture of linseed oil and lime-water in equal proportions may also be applied with great advantage. The portions of cloth which adhere to the burns may be easily removed by moistening them with a mixture of tepid milk and water. The [first bandage of oil should be removed after two days, and afterwards fresh bandages applied every day. If blisters have formed on the burnt surface, they should be pricked, but the skin need not necessarily be removed.

If the skin has simply got red by the burn, there is no more effective remedy than the application of a mud poultice. If the fingers have been burnt, care should be taken, when the poultice is applied, that they do not touch against one another. This same treatment may be applied in cases of acid-burns, and scalds of every description.