Popular Science Monthly/Volume 20/March 1882/Soda, a Remedy for Burns and Scalds

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SODA, A REMEDY FOR BURNS AND SCALDS.
By F. PEPPERCORNE, L. R. C. P.

ACCIDENTAL burns and scalds, even when not very severe, extensive, or dangerous, commonly cause so much pain for an indefinite time, depending probably as to duration and severity a good deal on the age of the sufferer, and on the greater or less degree of sensitiveness of the individual's skin or constitution—not forgetting I the feverish reaction, and the dangerous internal secondary inflammations that are apt to follow in some cases—that any easily applied and quickly available remedy and relief, without perhaps the immediate necessity of calling in professional assistance, will be acknowledged as a boon by most persons; and especially so, when it is remembered that the sooner the agonizing burning pain in the part can be allayed, the less chance there is of dangerous secondary effects, besides sloughing, etc., so severely trying to children and old persons.

The usual first applications to these painful injuries, whether so-called popular remedies, or such as are usually recommended by members of the profession, are numerous enough, but can not unfortunately hitherto be considered as generally successful in giving certain and speedy relief from pain, and, too often, intense suffering. One friend will recommend that the parts be covered with flour from the dredger; another will advise fine cotton-wool, or wadding; another, starch in powder, or soap, or treacle, or the so-called Carron-oil, etc.; but hardly one of such applications can be said to give more than very uncertain or temporary relief from pain, although, perhaps, by occupying the attention of the sufferer, they may in this way prove of some mental benefit during his sufferings—being indeed employed really for want of anything better—although, in fact, some of these applications, such as treacle, flour, starch, etc., prove so disagreeable in their after-effects, being often difficult to remove and renew, as to add frequently to the poor patient's depression and suffering, owing to their adhering to the injured parts in dry cakes very irritating to the raw surface.

It is now many years ago (see the "London Medical Gazette" of March, 1844) that the author of this paper, while engaged in some investigations as to the qualities and effects of the alkalies in inflammations of the skin, etc., was fortunate enough to discover that a saline lotion, or saturated solution of the bicarbonated soda in either plain water or camphorated water, if applied speedily, or as soon as possible, to a burned or scalded part, was most effectual in immediately relieving the acute burning pain; and when the burn was only superficial, or not severe, removing all pain in the course of a very short time; having also the very great advantage of cleanliness, and, if applied at once, of preventing the usual consequences—a painful blistering of the skin, separation of the epidermis, and perhaps more or less of suppuration.

For this purpose, all that is necessary is to cut a piece of lint, or old soft rag, or even thick blotting-paper, of a size sufficient to cover the burned or scalded parts, and to keep it constantly well wetted with the sodaic lotion so as to prevent its drying. By this means, it usually happens that all pain ceases in from a quarter to half an hour, or even in much less time.

When the main part of a limb, such as the hand and fore-arm or the foot and leg, has been burned, it is best, when practicable, to plunge the part at once into a jug, or pail, or other convenient vessel filled with the soda lotion, and keep it there until the pain subsides; or the limb may be swathed or encircled with a surgeon's cotton bandage previously soaked in the saturated solution, and kept constantly wetted with it, the relief being usually immediate, provided the solution be saturated and cold.

What is now usually sold as bicarbonate of soda is what I have commonly used and recommended; although this is well known to vary much in quality according to where it is manufactured—but it will he found to answer the purpose, although probably Howard's is most to be depended on, the common carbonate being too caustic. It is believed that a large proportion of medical practitioners are still unaware of the remarkable qualities of this easily applied remedy, which recommends itself for obvious reasons.—The Practitioner.