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  #1  
Old 27 March 2008, 06:35 AM
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Default Pouring hot water on a burn?

The other day some friends were visiting, one of which is into natural medicine. When mrs. callee burned her hand on the oven, this friend insisted that contrary to popular belief, pouring hot water on the burn was the best way to care for it. This sounded suspiciously like an old wives' tale to me, but I haven't been able to find anything about it, and it's not on the main site. So, any one up for a debunking?
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  #2  
Old 27 March 2008, 06:39 AM
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What I have heard is lukewarm. Essentially, you are wanting to take the heat out of the burn, but you shouldn't use water that is too cold. I suspect that what most people think of as hot water would be too hot by a long way. I usually use plain tap water, but plain tap water here is usually at least 20 degrees C I would guess.

I am not a doctor or medical professional, this is just what I learned in a first aid course

me
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Old 27 March 2008, 06:41 AM
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I think that sounds like about the stupidest "treatment" I've ever heard, including ear candling or those "toxin drawing" footpads.
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Old 27 March 2008, 06:48 AM
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I have heard this as a treatment/old wives tale for treating sunburn as well. The advice I got from my relatives (real life old wives ) for an extensive sunburn was to bathe in water as hot as I could stand it to "spread" the burn which would then apparently have no place to go but out I guess. *shrug* These same women also believed in a great many voo-doo practices so I always took their treatment advice with a grain of salt (which was another home remedy, but not for burns )

In any case, the Mayo clinic says to treat minor burns with cold water.

Quote:
# Cool the burn. Hold the burned area under cold running water for at least five minutes, or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cold water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Don't put ice on the burn.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fir...-burns/FA00022
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Old 27 March 2008, 11:14 AM
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I got an oven burn about a week ago, and I did what I always did, which is put it quickly under a cold tap. A friend of mine came in a few hours later, and said exactly the same as the OP, that I should have put hot water on it.
I'll be seeing him later and ask him where he got this from.
Either way, cold water still worked. It's virtually healed a week later.
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  #6  
Old 27 March 2008, 11:43 AM
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I heard someone say it in homeopathic medicine. Where they treat like with like. It's a dumb idea.
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Old 27 March 2008, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blucanary View Post
I heard someone say it in homeopathic medicine. Where they treat like with like. It's a dumb idea.
Maybe the cold water needs to have a treatment for burns diluted to 1/3,000,000,000 it's original strength...
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Old 27 March 2008, 12:34 PM
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Many, many years ago I managed to burn my hand badly. At the emergency department, they treated the burn by having me keep my hand in a bowl of cold water (they kept changing the water to keep it cold) for quite some time. Followed, of course, by bandages and warnings to keep my hand dry.
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Old 27 March 2008, 12:56 PM
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But really cold water just makes more sense. I'm sure icy water would be bad but heat will transfer to the colder water taking it away from the skin. Also cold helps remove inflammation and swelling. Hot water or even warm water isn't going to help as much.

And it could be said that tap water has come into contact with just about every substance on earth, including Birth Control so it's homeopathic medicine. Everyone can stop using condoms!!!
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Old 27 March 2008, 01:26 PM
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If applying more heat is the solution, why not just stick your hand back into the oven? Or spend another hour or two out in the sun?

Unless the water is so cold that you're causing freezing damage to the area around the burn, I can't imagine any reason not to go as cold as possible. The sooner you reduce the heat in the burn, the less tissue gets damaged.

Perhaps this got thought up when people heard similar advice for frostbite - you should submerge frostbite in lukewarm or cold tapwater. You want to avoid hot because while it's hard to cold-enough-to-damage water from the tap, getting hot-enough-to-damage water is easier. Of course, if you've got frostbite you also can't feel the temperature as well, so it's very easy to follow up frostbite with a nasty burn, hence either mixing water evenly, or having someone else monitor the temperature for you.

HenryB
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  #11  
Old 27 March 2008, 01:28 PM
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Anecdote does not equal data I know, but several years ago I was working in a small restaurant and got splashed by a wave of hot bacon grease just off the grill onto the back of my hand. It landed just above the webbing between my thumb and fingers. The lady I worked with, a very tiny, drill seargent Japanese older lady, grabbed me by the wrist and shoved my hand under very warm, but not hot, water. It hurt like 7 kinds of NSFBSK. But it never blistered, and even the red spot was gone in about an hour. I've done this since with a couple of other burns with the same result.
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Old 27 March 2008, 01:36 PM
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As was discussed, the purpose of putting cold water on the burn is to cool it. Frequently, after the burn is removed from the heat sourse, damage can continue until the area has cooled. Cooling the wound prevents further damage.

After cooling, the would should be cleaned and dressed like any other wound. Even if the wound is not "open" it can still become infected. Avoid using alcohol to disinfect as it will further dry the wound. Bacitracin should be used to keep the wound from drying out and scabbing.
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Old 27 March 2008, 01:44 PM
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I was once told milk was good to cool burns.
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Old 27 March 2008, 02:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llewtrah View Post
I was once told milk was good to cool burns.
I found that one out, a little too late to use when I cut up over a pound of habanero peppers--without gloves. If--which isn't likely to happen --I were ever to do that particular brain-dead activity again, I would stick my hands in milk.

And, yes, I do manage to injure myself in stupid ways, why do you ask?
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Old 27 March 2008, 02:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llewtrah View Post
I was once told milk was good to cool burns.
I would guess that the fat in milk gives it a higher heat capacity than water, meaning that it would conduct heat away from the burn even better than water.

Maybe this makes sense with another "old wives tale" to put butter on a burn. In the absence of cold water or bandages, putting butter on a burn would add moisture and protect it from drying out, and the butter would have a higher heat capacity than just the ambient air. It's not ideal, and certainly not the remedy of choice, but in the absence of anything else it does make sense...
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Old 27 March 2008, 02:19 PM
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When I've burnt myself before (minor burns with an iron or oven etc) I've always put my hand in cold tap water but never can hold out for the full 10mins you're supposed to leave it there for as I find the coldness more uncomfortable than the burn.

Perhaps using lukewarm water would be beneficial in that you would be more likely to keep your burnt bits there after a minor burn than in what feels like freezing water?
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  #17  
Old 27 March 2008, 02:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero_Mike View Post
Maybe this makes sense with another "old wives tale" to put butter on a burn. In the absence of cold water or bandages, putting butter on a burn would add moisture and protect it from drying out, and the butter would have a higher heat capacity than just the ambient air. It's not ideal, and certainly not the remedy of choice, but in the absence of anything else it does make sense...
Butter should never be used on a burn. It promotes infection. I believe, but I am not positive, that rather than cooling the burn, or dissipating the heat, butter and ointments can "hold the heat in" causing a burn to worsen even.

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/masscasualties/burns.asp

Milk probably works the same way as water. It cools the burn. In the case of hot pepper burns (as opposed to heat) the fat in the milk helps neutralize the capsaicin, which relieves the burning sensation. Actually that is a little misleading of me. The way it is worded elsewhere is, "casein, a phosphoprotein found in milk, acts as a detergent to dissociate the capsaicin from nerve receptors, allowing it to wash away." Alcohol has a similar effect (for hot peppers not heat burns) which is why beer is a great beverage with spicy meals.

http://www.ehow.com/how_2058509_trea...pper-burn.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsaicin
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Old 27 March 2008, 02:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrome View Post
Anecdote does not equal data I know, but several years ago I was working in a small restaurant and got splashed by a wave of hot bacon grease just off the grill onto the back of my hand. It landed just above the webbing between my thumb and fingers. The lady I worked with, a very tiny, drill seargent Japanese older lady, grabbed me by the wrist and shoved my hand under very warm, but not hot, water. It hurt like 7 kinds of NSFBSK. But it never blistered, and even the red spot was gone in about an hour. I've done this since with a couple of other burns with the same result.
I'd say in the case of bacon grease the warm water washed the grease off which may have helped.

Regardless, you don't have a control in any of these situations. I'm sure warm water did not make the difference between a first and second degree burn for you.
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Old 27 March 2008, 03:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babyshoes View Post
I found that one out, a little too late to use when I cut up over a pound of habanero peppers--without gloves. If--which isn't likely to happen --I were ever to do that particular brain-dead activity again, I would stick my hands in milk.

And, yes, I do manage to injure myself in stupid ways, why do you ask?
I think milk would work for such chemical burns; for heat-related burns, milk would likely work, too, provided it's fresh out of the fridge as opposed to fresh out of the cow/goat/horse/et cetera.

niner, the reason not-hot water is used to treat frostbite is due to reduced sensation in the affective areas: it would be hard for a person to know when the water is too hot.
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  #20  
Old 27 March 2008, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KKHB View Post
Butter should never be used on a burn. It promotes infection. I believe, but I am not positive, that rather than cooling the burn, or dissipating the heat, butter and ointments can "hold the heat in" causing a burn to worsen even.
Your link mentions infections only - that makes sense because butter is not sterile, and neither are most ointments, especially when it is so easy to contaminate the "end" of the tube. I have an antibiotic ointment at home (Polysporin) which is, however, recommended for minor burns.

In the absence of the knowledge of infection and sterility, that's still why butter made sense.

But I don't understand how this would work as an insulator and "hold the heat in" - my knowledge of thermodynamics tells me that there is ointment in contact with the burn, which is in contact with ambient air. The air is at a lower temperature than the body, and the heat transfer property of the ointments (petroleum based, I would assume) will wick away the heat.
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