SA in dire need of increased burn awareness and education. Many burn injuries occur in disadvantaged or rural areas and there are natural alternatives to the expensive imported wound care products. Medical-grade honey is the best treatment for most wounds. Honey is well known for its healing properties, especially on burn wounds.
Danielle de Villiers, Head of Research and Development (at) Melcura™, after completing her Master of Science (Msc) focused on medical immunology, entered the incredible industry of medical devices. Danielle says “One of my first experiences was research and development of an innovative synthetic resorbable skin substitute. I was, in essence, developing artificial skin that had the properties of natural human skin. Seeing it applied to living, breathing burns patients and the incredible results achieved after the lengthy process of product design, development and, finally, clinical testing – I was hooked! It was so rewarding to watch children covered in this skin substitute, racing against each other down the corridors of Leratong Paediatric Burns Unit on push bikes with no pain! I’ve now worked on the full design, development and post-market spectrum of wound care devices from high-tech electrospun wound dressings to the sweet workings of honey in wound care.”
Danielle further states that, while it is rewarding to work on the development and recovery side, she quickly became aware of how much still needs to be done to prevent burns in the first place. “Our reality in SA is that many people are either living without electricity, or only have sporadic access to electricity. This means that gas or open fires are used by millions daily. These same people do not have easy access to medical care, so the most important first step is to educate people on prevention, and also treatment in the event of burn wounds.”
General wound treatment
Most of us think of wounds happening because of a burn, or a nasty fall. But even a small wound, like a dog bite that does not look serious at first, can end up disastrous if not treated correctly. What you can see on the skin, is usually not the actual case under the skin.
The skin is the largest organ in our body and protects us from germs (bacteria, fungi and viruses) that live on its surface. So, when the skin is broken, there is a risk of germs getting into the body and causing an infection. The deeper or larger or dirtier a wound is, the more care it needs.
In South Africa during winter, we see our largest volume of patients suffering from burn injuries: Diabetic persons with loss of feeling in their feet, who burn with hot water bottles and heaters or hot bath water, which often results in burn wounds on the feet; small children pulling kettle cords or hot cups from the counter top and informal settlement fires due to lack of electricity.
What you must NEVER do:
There are so many myths about how to treat burns, but the truth is that many of these can cause further damage.
Never apply ice, butter, toothpaste, ice water or egg white. These can introduce even more bacteria, or even increase the damage already done.
What you SHOULD do:
- Rinse the wound with running cool tap water (or cool clean water from a container) for at least 20 minutes. This will cool down the wound and assist with the pain.
- Thereafter, apply a honey-based wound care product to protect the wound from bacteria and create the ideal healing environment.
- The important rule is to keep it clean and minimise pain. Remember that any burn patient needs medical help and it is advised to seek professional medical assistance as soon as possible.
Additional treatment tips:
- Medical-grade honey is the best treatment for most wounds. Honey is well known for its healing properties, especially on burn wounds. Always keep a tube of honey-based wound products in your first aid kit.
- A blister – gently clean the blister without breaking the skin and cover with a thin layer of honey-based wound care– place a gentle dressing over it as a cover. Dress it every second day.
- A red, angry and warm wound – this might indicate that the wound is inflamed, or infected – the quick and easy solution is to clean the wound with a wound cleanser such as saline, place a thin layer of honey-based wound ointment on the wound and cover it with gauze and a light bandage.
- A bite wound – immediately clean the wound with saline and gauze and then cover the wound with a concentrated honey-based ointment and gauze. Ensure that the patient gets to a doctor or clinic as soon as possible for a tetanus treatment.
In summary, there are many types of wounds and there are lots of misconceptions out there. Always ensure that you are prepared to treat an emergency that might happen in and around your house. Always keep a tube of honey-based wound products in your first aid kit.