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June 15, 2008

BehindTheMedspeak: Don't ice that burn


That's the short of it.

Here's Anahad O'Connor's June 10, 2008 New York Times "Really?" feature with the back story.

    The Claim: Ice Is Good for a Skin Burn

    The Facts: Like a cup of tea for a cough, a batch of ice for a sunburn may seem like the perfect remedy for millions of Americans who will spend a little too much time in the sun this summer.

    But many home remedies that seem like common sense are less than helpful, and the old ice-for-a-burn technique is no exception. It can help soothe some initial pain, but in the end it will slow the healing process.

    That has been borne out over the years in various studies of simple treatments for minor scalds and sunburns. In one randomized study by Danish researchers in 2002, 24 healthy volunteers were inflicted with first-degree burns and subjected to different treatments. Those who received a cooling treatment similar to ice did not experience reduced pain or inflammation compared with those who received a placebo treatment.

    In another study in the journal Burns in 1997, another team of scientists compared easing burns with ice cubes for 10 minutes with other remedies and found that ice caused “the most severe damage.” “Using an ice cube immediately after injury,” the authors added, “is harmful in some instances.”

    According to the Mayo Clinic, putting ice on a burn can cause frostbite and damage the skin. For better results, try running cool water over the area and taking a pain reliever. Then cover the area with gauze but no ointment. Most minor burns heal without further treatment, the clinic says.

    The Bottom Line: Never use ice to soothe a burn.


Most important is to get the burn under water as soon as possible following the injury — run, don't walk to the faucet.

The first seconds are critical in minimizing tissue trauma and subsequent pain.

I recommend the coldest water you can find running over the burn for a minimum of five minutes — by the clock.

Though the skin may feel cold, the damage continues beneath as a result of the heat previously absorbed when the burn occurred.

Five minutes of running water is better than a shorter period of sticking the burned area in a sink or tub or whatever because 1) the water stays colder, and 2) water removes more heat when flowing than still.

June 15, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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I prefer the 3rd option. A martini *ALWAYS* fixes anything that ails you. In fact, if one has too many martinis in their attempt to self-medicate, a martini administered the morning after is most definitely the appropriate response.

Though the photo above is incorrect...unless drinking a dirty martini, one should eat the olives before soothing the burns. Why? The PROTEIN...any faux-holistic alcohol healing enthusiast will tell you this is correct. Modern medicine might say we are wrong, they may even state that the fruit does nothing more, but I can only talk through empirically driven first hand experience. Hell, modern medicine will even tell us the distilled juniper berries haven enough of the healing properties that make the ouchies go away. And they may be right, so it just means one has to drink more.

Screw the doctors, drink more alcohol.

Posted by: clifyt | Jun 15, 2008 12:48:52 PM

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