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What is the value of home remedies for burns? In a post-SHTF world, we will all be asked to do the unfamiliar. The daily activities required to survive the apocalypse will push us out of the familiar. Because of this, we will need to find novel treatments for our ills.
Risks are always associated with new skills. Forced to cook and heat in new ways we will eventually encounter burns. If we are lucky, they will be minor, albeit uncomfortable.
Hand in hand with the grid down world is the rarity of services that we are currently used to. From the small engine mechanics to doctors everything we once took for granted will be in short supply. We will have to find ways to make due.
So, let’s look at a few home remedies for burns in an effort to make that new normal just a little more comfortable.
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Alternate knowledge is a great thing to have. Learn, practice, and master new skills. However, be reasonable when it comes to alternative medical knowledge.
Burns come in all shapes and sizes, from minor annoyances to life-threatening emergencies. While I’ll teach you to recognize and know the difference, it is up to you to decide the treatment path. If the grid is up and qualified medical care is available then you must seek it out.
Do not risk life or limb in order to try out the latest home remedy on your brand new burn. Seek out and follow the instructions of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professionals.
It bears repeating that home remedies are exactly that. Remedies for the home for when you have no other recourse due to the situation at hand be it natural or man-made.
Burn Causes and Classifications
Before we can apply a home remedy for a burn, we need to identify the extent of the injury. Luckily, we learn from a young age that hot things burn.
Every child knows to avoid a burn: don’t touch hot things. Pretty simple, and an easily learned lesson at that. Touch a hot stove once… not twice.
That is a bit of an oversimplification, however, it hasn’t kept me from touching other hot things. Pots, pans, exhaust manifolds, torches, and even a really, really hot router bit. I only ever burned myself once on each but the world is filled with new opportunities for stupidity.
It’s Not Just Getting Too Close to the Sun that Burns
As I’ve experienced, there are a million things to burn yourself on, but other than contact with something hot, how many different ways can you get yourself in trouble?
Ok, we may have covered this one already, but for sake of completeness it doesn’t take much to turn a normal everyday object into a “teachable moment.” Heat up metal, wood, glass, or even water and you will burn, blister, or melt.
Who hasn’t had an older sibling dole out an “Indian rub?” One notch above “stop hitting yourself!” this rub is the little brother of a friction burn.
Move something over the skin fast enough and the friction generates sufficient heat to burn. Ropes and fabric are the prime offenders; however, the list is larger than my imagination.
A blast from a boiling pot or tea kettle is enough to cook the skin off an arm in a hurry.
Especially devious, high-pressure steam can even be invisible. Often soaring well above 200 degrees Fahrenheit, steam is much more dangerous than boiling water.
There is little better than a soak in the sun on the first day of spring. Shed off those winter layers and let the sun scrub you clean better than any sponge. This is not without its risks though.
Too much exposure to the sun leads to sunburn. Annoying if mild, but debilitating when widespread and severe, it’s nothing to trifle with. Thankfully, you are not likely to get a third-degree burn from the sun.
Venturing away from the norm (at least my norm) is electrical burns.
Happening in an instant and rarely minor, electrical burns will be difficult to treat post-SHTF. Seek expert advice if you encounter an electrical burn.
Chemical burns are deserving of their own dedicated discussion. Just the process of neutralizing the chemical reaction requires a book’s worth of knowledge.
I will not cover chemical burns here. Please research them on your own if you anticipate being in a situation where they are a significant risk.
Classifying a Burn
The Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and high school health classes across the United States teach basic first aid and cover burns exceptionally well. Let’s take a look at the abbreviated version.
First Degree Burns
Usually just an annoyance, first-degree burns are a superficial disruption of the skin. Affecting the topmost layer, they are signified by red swollen skin.
This minor inflammation can be painful and when healing the topmost layer peels. Most often associated with a minor sunburn they are easy to get and easy to heal.
The stages of first-degree burn healing are relatively simple. First, the redness and swelling subside. Then, identical to a sunburn, the top of the layer of skin will simply and easily peel off.
Second Degree Burns
Second-degree burns involve the entire top layer of skin (dermis) and extend into the second layer (epidermis).
A second-degree burn looks similar to a first-degree burn with the addition of blisters.
What to do with a burn blister? Well, if you’re asking yourself “should I pop a burn blister?” Definitely not. When you pop the blister, you create a gap in the skin’s protective layer. This allows bacteria to get a foothold in an already compromised system.
Resist! I know you want to, but don’t pop them.
Large or small blisters are prone to popping, therefore exposing raw and vulnerable skin. Loosely wrap them to cushion and protect them from rupture.
When a second-degree burn covers more than three (3) square inches it will need medical attention quickly to avoid permanent scarring or worse.
The stages of second-degree burn healing are similar to first-degree burns. The swelling and redness are reduced as the outer layers of skin heal. If the blisters do not pop, then they will generally harden slightly and peel off in a manner similar to scabs. Finally, the blistered areas heal with fresh scar tissue.
Third Degree Burns
True emergencies begin with third-degree burns. Appearing white and waxy, charred as well as cooked third-degree burns affect all the layers of skin. See the next section for treatment.
Fourth Degree Burns
Often described as black and crispy, fourth-degree burns involve not only the skin but also muscle or potentially bone. This is the worst of the worst. Pray you never encounter one.
Surgery is required for both third and fourth-degree burns.
Unable to heal by itself, a burn of this nature is fraught with other issues. The dead skin must be removed (cut or scrubbed away) to expose healthy tissue. As a result, the warm and moist environment is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
Special treatment will be required to remove the dead tissue and manage the myriad of infections that may set in. Again, pray you never encounter this.
The Internet is filled with first-, second-, and third-degree burn pictures. Search these out to educate yourself on their appearance so that you can rapidly identify them quickly in a real-world scenario.
Your skin is your first and largest defense against a brutal world. When your skin is compromised it is exceptionally easy for additional complications to set in.
Here are a few additional precautions to be aware of.
Size and Area
Burns require significant attention from the bodies healing resources. A burn of more than 3 square inches (about half the size of the palm of your hand) sends the patient immediately to a higher level of care.
Burns on your face, buttocks, hands, or groin all require special attention. Due to the sensitivity or constant movement of these areas, special medical care should be considered for the comfort of the patient.
An elevated temperature signifies a possible infection. Even a first- or second-degree burn can allow an infection to set in.
If the patient develops a fever it is a sign of a much more serious issue. Seek immediate care if the patient develops a fever.
In a post-SHTF world where you don’t have a doctor in your group, research and learn the various home remedies for a fever that are available.
Home Remedies for Burns
Let’s add a dose of reality to this discussion. If you have a third or fourth-degree burn you will need to rely on specialty medical care. In a post-SHTF world this means one of two things.
One – The doctor (who is hopefully still up and operating) is within walking/carrying distance.
Two – Your Mutual Assistance Group (MAG) has a doctor, a surgical setup, the materials, and medicines necessary to support the patient during the long recovery.
The goal for first- and second-degree burns is to return to function as soon as possible. So, let’s dive in and take a look at our options for home remedies for sunburns and more severe burns.
Cool and Cover Home Remedies for Burns
1. Cold Compress
The first home remedy for burns is as easy as it is intuitive. Stop the burn! As soon as is safe, cool the affected area. Simply apply cool water or a cold compress to the skin.
Aside from preventing further physical damage, this step reduces swelling. A cool wash also removes any surface contaminants that can cause other complications.
It must be noted that you should never cool with ice. You run the risk of adding frostbite to your list of problems. There is no need to further complicate the injury.
Burns compromise the integrity of our skin, our first layer of defense against the world. Cover the affected area with a sterile non-stick dressing. Make sure to cover it loosely as not to aggravate the sensitive skin.
Soothing Home Remedies for Burns
There are many home remedies for burns that speed recovery. Most take the form of a soothing salve. The following treatments apply to all stages of second-degree healing.
Used for just about everything from a cough to a laceration, honey is THE not-so-modern miracle. A great second-degree burn treatment, dress the affected area with a thin coating of honey.
When it comes to home remedies, honey has been used to treat burns and other maladies for thousands of years. The antiseptic qualities fight off any bad critters while the hydrophilic properties keep the skin at just the right moisture level for healing.
Apply 2-3 times per day.
4. Aloe Vera
If your childhood was like mine your mom kept an Aloe plant on the window sill.
At least until I got on the wrong side of a neighbor’s burn pile and toasted the hair off my arm – this was the same week that she gave the plant to a friend. Oops.
As far as home remedies go, using Aloe Vera to treat burns is the quintessential choice. Pressed from a leaf tip or scraped out from a split leaf the gel is ready to use as is.
Apply the gel to the skin and let dry. Add sterile non-stick dressing over the gel for an extra layer of protection.
Apply several times a day to aid healing.
5. Plantain Poultice
If you are lucky enough to have weeds in your lawn then make use of them. Plantain is ubiquitous in American lawns and border plantings.
Pick and wash 3-4 leaves. Crush them to extract the juice and rub it directly on the burned area. Avoid open blisters of second-degree burns.
Apply 2-3 times per day covering with a sterile dressing.
6. Vitamin E
Sold in gel capsules or as an oil, Vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and aids in skin regeneration.
Apply a few drops and spread over the skin. Use Vitamin E oil in combination with any of the other treatments listed here.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Likewise, a 1:1 mixture of ACV and clean, sterilized water is no different. When applied to the skin, the mixture provides quick pain relief. ACV also acts as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
Apply with a cotton ball or gauze pad 2-3 times per day. Let dry after each application.
8. Lavender Oil
Lavender essential oil is a must for every post-apocalyptic emergency preparedness kit. For burns, it must be mixed with a carrier gel (like Aloe) or other salves. Avoid using a carrier oil (like Coconut oil) as they trap heat which will hinder healing.
Apply 2-3 times per day.
While not used as a direct application as with a salve or balm, oatmeal is hard to beat in a cooling soak. Place 1 cup oats into a cheesecloth (or a sock) and float in the bathtub while it fills.
For a more effective treatment, add the oats to a blender and grind until very fine. Add the oat powder to the filling tub and enjoy your soak. Either treatment reduces the itch of the healing process.
Your doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic ointment if the skin is broken. Antibiotics are overused and most of the bacteria you will encounter are already immune to commercial OTC antibiotics.
The savvy prepper will do their homework on natural antibiotics to further supplement their home remedy arsenal.
Alternately, try colloidal silver or silver gel. More effective than antibiotics, as there is no resistance, and a solution that can be made at home, silver is a much better alternative.
11. Comfrey Salve!
This is hands down my favorite home remedy for a burn. Secondly, in my opinion, it is the best home remedy for sunburns.
I have made it, used it, and shared comfrey salve with friends. In all cases of both first and mild second degree burns, pain relief and healing was faster than anyone could remember.
Apply the salve several times per day to your burn. Cover with a sterile bandage for severe cases or leave uncovered for lesser burns.
- 1 quart jar with ring and lid
- 1 cup dried Comfrey leaves (Symphytum Uplandicum)
- 1 cup dried Plantain leaves (Plantago Major)
- 2 cups olive oil (organic, cold or expeller pressed)
- ½ cup beeswax pastilles (more for a stiffer salve)
- 2 oz Shea butter
- 1 oz Cocoa butter
- 2 1000 mg Vitamin E capsules
- Small jars to store the salve
- Thoroughly clean and dry a quart jar
- Crush the dried comfrey and plantain leaves and add to the quart jar
- Fill the jar with the olive oil then add the ring and lid.
For the next two (2) months keep the jar in a cool, dry place and shake every day.
- Strain the oil from the leaves pouring the oil into a double boiler.
- Add the shea butter, and coco butter a little at a time to the oil as it heats.
- Once all the shea and cocoa butter have been incorporated start adding the beeswax.
- When ¾ of the beeswax has been added place a few drops of the salve on a cool plate, use this to test the consistency of the salve. If you prefer a harder or stiffer salve add more beeswax.
- Add beeswax letting each batch of wax fully melt before testing until you have reached the desired consistency.
- Pour the salve into the clean jars, cap, and allow it to cool.
Feel free to add a few drops (no more than 6) to the salve at the end of the melting process. Thoroughly research the essential oils for the effect you desire.,
Bonus: Stock Your Medicine Cabinet
Burns are associated with pain and discomfort. For mild to moderate pain, nothing works like a few over the counter (OTC) tablets. Stock up on Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and Aspirin.
As much as I recommend wandering the wilderness to find white willow or other plant remedies, and then chew on the inner bark until the pain goes away; it’s still easier to just toss two Tylenol back with a glass of water.
Stock your SHTF medicine cabinet with lots of these three meds. If you avoid gel capsules they will last for years. Cheap and easy to get, stack them high and deep while you can.
If you happen to live in a willow grove (and can tolerate the taste), knock yourself out and use the tablets for barter. Until then stop by your local big box grocery store and stock up.
A post-SHTF world will have threats around every corner. Forced to do the unfamiliar we are bound to get burned often (literally and figuratively). While common sense and care of action are the best preventatives, home remedies for burns will help when you have that inevitable slip up.
Bonus: How to Make Pemmican, the Original Survival Food
Invented by the natives of North America pemmican was used by Indian scouts as well as early western explorers.
Native Americans spent a great deal of time on the go and depended on having portable, high-energy, highly nutritious, and filling foods that would last for long periods of time without refrigeration.
Pemmican is a portable, long-lasting, high-energy food. It's made of lean, dried meat that's crushed into powder and mixed with hot, rendered fat. This makes it one of the ultimate foods to have stockpiled for when SHTF or disaster strikes.
People really should avert their gaze from the modern survival thinking for just a bit and also look at how folks 150 years ago did it.
These guys were the last generation to practice basic things, for a living, that we call "survival skills" now.