Most burns are not serious and can be managed with simple care at home. Herbal ointments such as aloe vera or calendula can be applied to mild burns, and a number of vitamins, minerals and other supplements can be taken orally to help promote healing and prevent infection.

What is it?

A burn is a damage to the skin caused by heat, chemicals or electricity. Most burns occur at home, and occasionally they require hospitalisation. Varying in depth and size, burns are classified as first, second or third degree. Most sunburns, for example, are considered first-degree burns because they involve only the outer layer of skin, whereas second-degree burns injure part of the underlying skin ayer. Affecting all the skin layers, third-degree burns damage the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels below. Third-degree burns are always a medical emergency and require timely treatment, such as skin grafting, to aid recoveryy and minimise scarring.

What causes it?

Burns are commonly caused by scalding water, hot oil or grease, hot foods or overexposure to sun. Most serious injuries may result from fire, steam or chemicals. Electrical burns, usually occurring from contact with faulty or uninsulated wiring, can be deceptive: skin damage may be minimal, but internal injuries can be extensive.

What are the symptoms?

First-degree burns

  • Tenderness and redness.
  • Possible swelling.

Second-degree burns

  • Pain, redness and blisters.
  • Mild to moderate swelling.

Third-degree burns

  • No immediate pain or bleeding because nerves are damaged.
  • Charred skin or black, white or red skin.
  • No blisters, but serious swelling.

Are there any natural therapies?

Self-care is most appropriate for first-degree and some small second-degree burns. (More serious burns require medical attention.) To treat, immerse the burned area in cool water for about 15 minutes (be careful not to break any blisters) or apply cool compresses. Once the burn has cooled, apply aloe vera gel diretly to the injured area to relieve pain and inflammation and soothe the skin. (Alternatively, use a dressing soaked in chamomile tea or apply lavender oil.) Then use infection-fighting calendula cream or goldenseal cream on any raw areas and cover with a light dressing.

During the healing process, the body needs extra nutrients. These should be taken for a weeks or two, until the burn heals. In combination, the nerbs gotu kola (which stimulates the growth of connective tissue in the skin) and echinacea, vitamins A, E and E and the mineral zinc all work together to boost the immune response, repair skin and tissues and prevent scarring.

What else can I do?

  • Gently cleanse burns daily with mild soap, taking care not to break any blister; rinse well. Use sterile gauze dressing to keep burns dry and protected from dirt and bacteria.
  • Drink plenty of fluids while you skin is healing.
  • Avoid exposing burnt skin to hot showers or the sun.

Did you know?

Butter is an old folk remedy for burns – but don't use it. Like other oils or greasy ointments, butter traps heat, slows healing and increases the risk of later infection.