Aloe has been a common burn remedy since the Greek physician Dioscorides discovered its medicinal properties circa six B.C. The plant began originally grew in Eastern and Southern Africa, making its to temperate zones via trade routes. During the 18th and 19th centuries, aloe was one of the most prescribed medicines in the world, and it remains a valuable medicinal commodity used commonly in the treatment of burned skin. Aloe for burns is not just an old wives tale!
What Kind of Burns?
Burns, a type of injury to the skin, can be caused by a variety of things: the sun, heat, electricity, friction (oh those good old rug burns!), and even radiation. Although treatment varies depending on the size of the burn and how severe it is, applying antibiotic aloe vera to some types of burns will help reduce the symptoms and speed healing:
Part One of Two:
Preparing the Wound
1Get away from the source of the burn. Whenever you find yourself burned, you need to get away from the source of the burn. If you got burned by an electrical appliance, turn off the appliance and move the skin away from it. If you were burned by chemicals, get away from the spill as quickly as possible. If you got a sunburn, get out of the sun immediately.
If your clothes were covered with chemicals or burned in the process, remove them as carefully as possible without hurting the wound. Do not pull clothing away from your skin if it sticks to the burned area; call emergency services or seek immediate medical attention.
Determine the severity of the burn. There are three different degrees of burns. Before you treat your burn, you need to know the difference in the burns. A first-degree burn affects only the top layer of skin, is usually red, can be painful, and is dry to the touch.A second-degree burn extends further into the under layers of skin, may look “wet” or discolored, often includes white blisters, and generally causes pain.Third-degree burns extend all the way through the skin and sometimes into surrounding tissue. They look dry or leathery, and may include black, white, brown, or yellowed skin at the burn site. They cause swelling and are extremely severe, even though they often hurt less than more minor burns because the nerve endings have been damaged.
- If you are unsure whether a burn is first- or second-degree, call a doctor. If you think it is anything other than a first-degree burn, see your doctor. Second- and third-degree burns can be life-threatening if not properly treated.
- Only continue if you know your burn is first-degree or minor second-degree. Others should not be treated with this method unless a doctor tells you it is okay.
- Never treat a third-degree burn, or any open wound, with aloe. The aloe does not allow the burn to dry, which makes it impossible to heal.
Cool your wound. Once you have assessed the state of your burn and removed yourself from the injurious situation, you can start to cool your wound. This helps pull the heat from the wound and calm the skin before you apply aloe. Run cold water over the burn for 10-15 minutes as soon as possible after the burn.
- If you cannot reach the area with a tap or shower, soak a cloth in cold water and place it over the burn for 20 minutes. Replace the cloth as its temperature rises with another newly soaked cloth.
- If you’re able to, bathe the burned area in cool water for at least 5 minutes. You can soak the area in a sink or bowl of cool water.
4Clean the wound. Once you have cooled the wound, you need to clean it. Take some soap and rub it in your hands. Gently rub the soap over the burned area, cleaning it. Rinse the area with cool water to remove to soap suds. Pat dry with a towel.
Do not rub the wound because it can cause the skin to get even more irritated or the skin to break if it is sensitive or starting to form blisters.
Part Two of Two:
Treating the Burn with Aloe Vera
Cut aloe from a plant. If you have an aloe plant in your home or near where your burn occurred, you can use it to get fresh aloe. Remove a few meaty leaves near the bottom of an aloe vera plant. Cut off any spines on the leaves to avoid getting poked. Cut the leaves in half down the middle and score the insides with your knife. This will release the aloe from the leaves. Collect the aloe on a dish.
- Repeat until you have enough aloe to cover all of your burn
- Aloe vera plants are very easy to maintain. They grow in almost all indoor climates, and in warm outdoor climates. Water it every other day and make sure you do not overwater it. Offshoots from the plant can be easily potted to grow a new plant.
Use store-bought aloe. If you do not have an aloe plant, you can use over-the-counter aloe gel or cream. It can be acquired at most general stores, pharmacies, and grocery stores. When purchasing a brand, make sure the cream or gel is 100% pure aloe vera gel, or as close as possible. Some products have more than others, but you should get the one with the highest possible amount of aloe.
- Look at the ingredient list of the gel you buy. Some that claim that they are “made with pure aloe gel” only have 10% aloe.
Apply a generous amount to your wound. Take the aloe you extracted from the plant or pour a generous amount of the gel into your hands. Rub it gently onto the burned area, making sure not to scrub the affected area or rub too hard. Repeat 2-3 times a day until the burn is no longer painful.
- You only have to cover your wound after the aloe vera has been applied if it is in a place that might get rubbed against or hurt without a protective covering. In this case, use a clean bandage or gauze that will not leave any residue behind once it is removed.
Take an aloe vera bath. If you want another alternative to simply applying aloe vera gel, you can take an aloe vera bath. If you have an aloe plant, boil a few leaves in water. Take out the leaves and pour the water, which may be brown in color, into your bathwater. If you have gel, pour a generous amount into your water as you fill up the tub. Lay in the lukewarm water infused with aloe for 20 minutes to soothe your burn.
- You can also buy bubble bath with aloe in it, but it is not recommended to use these products on burned skin. They may have other chemicals that might dry out your skin instead of hydrating it.
See a doctor. Sometimes, aloe will not be enough to heal a burn. You should monitor your burn while you are using aloe to see how it progresses. You should see a doctor if your burn gets worse or becomes more irritated by the aloe. You should also seek medical attention if your burn persists for more than a week and seems to not get better.
- If your burn has increased pain, swells, develops pus, or you run a fever, you may have an infection and you need to see a doctor.
- You need to see a doctor immediately if you get an infection, have trouble breathing, have a low body temperature, or experience bone or joint problem on the site of the burn.
- You should also see a doctor immediately if you have burns on your face or hands.