History of Burn Treatments: Making Patients as Comfortable as Possible
The need to threat burns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was great. Women’s skirts would catch fire while cooking, or children’s clothing while playing too close to the fireplace or stove. An overturned kerosene or gas lamp would set a home or barn ablaze in minutes. During World War I, men also were burned by mustard gas.
So how were burns treated for those who survived their wounds?
Burns were treated at home using everyday items such as honey, milk, butter, eggs or lard. Ointments such as rose water or oil also were used, as was saline.
More serious wounds were covered with bandages. Antiseptics kept infection from developing. During World War I, burns were disinfected using sodium hypochlorite.
Patients with third-degree burns were given morphine or another opiate for pain relief. Dead skin was cut away.
Mustard Gas Treatments
Mustard gas was first used in 1917. Unlike chlorine gas, which could be seen, mustard gas was clear. Victims often were exposed, but didn’t know it for hours or even days.
Exposure caused irritation, redness and burning. It also affected the digestive and respiratory systems.
Once a soldier was exposed to mustard gas, there was little medical personnel could do.
Treatment was limited to:
- Eyes were flushed with saline, but blindness was common
- Skin was treated with petroleum jelly and bleaching powder
- Gauze soaked in menthol was used to alleviate respiratory distress
Though rarely deadly, mustard gas affected victims permanently, sometimes causing cancer.
Where to Purchase the WWI Trilogy
This post is a companion piece to Melina Druga’s WWI Trilogy: Angel of Mercy, Those Left Behind and Adjustment Year. The trilogy focuses on Hettie and her family as they navigate the challenges and heartbreak World War I brings.
Angel of Mercy: A nurse reluctantly sacrifices her career for marriage. An impending war will change her, and her husband’s, life forever. Available in eBook, paperback and hardcover. Click here for a full list of retailers.
Those Left Behind: The brewing winds of war will soon rip the family apart. Available in eBook, paperback and hardcover. Click here for a full list of retailers.
Adjustment Year: A war nurse returns home. Society expects her to carry on as if the Great War never happened. But how can she? Available in eBook, paperback and hardcover. Click here for a full list of retailers.