The month of May is the official ‘burn awareness’ month in SA, and as a manufacturer of wound treatment products, Melcura™ is acutely aware of the importance of awareness and education when it comes to the prevention and correct treatment of burn injuries.
As a South African company, Melcura™ knows that many burn injuries occur in disadvantaged or rural areas and the company’s goal is to provide an alternative to the expensive imported wound care products. In addition, the company focuses on year-round burn awareness and treatment education.
Danielle de Villiers, Project Manager (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.”
Someone who has plenty of experience with wound care is Sister Renè Lessing, a Registered Nurse who believes that her love for people and her passion for healing created a personal journey that she would not change for anything in the world. Among many other things, Sister Lessing created one of the first basic wound care courses in the industry called ‘Back to Basics in Wound Care.’
“As a caregiver it is heartbreaking to see patients with infected burn wounds that could have healed quite easily if the correct procedures were taken immediately”, says Lessing, “With such a large portion of our population at risk of burn wounds each day, and who don’t have access to medical treatment, I also believe our first priority is to educate people on what should be done in the event of a burn, how to treat basic wounds, and when to seek medical help.”
Sister Lessing’s advice
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 due to burn injuries. There are many reasons for this such as:
- Diabetic persons with loss of feeling in 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 chords or hot cups from the countertop.
- Informal settlement fires due to lack of electricity.
- Other causes of burns are from chemicals in factories as well as hot oil or steam from restaurants.
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 lightly cover the wound with either an emergency-type dressing or a Petroleum Jelly gauze dressing.
- The important rule is to keep it clean and minimize 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. Melcura™’s Honey range can be used on any wound with complete safety. Honey is well known for its healing properties, especially on burn wounds. Always keep a tube of Melcura™ HoneyGel (gel) or HoneyPlus (ointment) in your first aid kit.
- A Blister – gently clean the blister without breaking the skin and cover with a thin layer of Melcura™ HoneyGel – 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 and place a thin layer of Melcura™ HoneyPlus 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 Melcura™ HoneyPlus 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.
Burn awareness in SA
As mentioned, there is a critical need for increased education around burn prevention and treatment in SA. Those who work with patients will tell you that many burn wounds could either have been prevented or cured much sooner with proper treatment. It is up to us to educate and assist wherever we can.
For this reason, Melcura™ supports organisations such as Heroburn, who not only educate, but also support burn victims and their families in any way possible.
Dr Nel, a widely-respected plastic surgeon at Netcare Milpark Hospital, specializing in burn trauma agrees that “a major burns injury is one of the most devastating insults a human being can experience. Its impact can not only cause multi-organ failure, but may also cause personality change and major emotional and psychosocial problems. Education and prevention cannot be underestimated in the fight against burns. The best way to combat a prolonged healing process, bad scarring and poor functional outcome, is to correctly manage the burn in the early stages of management. This is also greatly dependant on education.”
It goes without saying that all those involved in treating burn victims fully support Burn Awareness Month, but it is even more important to ensure that this momentum of awareness is carried throughout the year so that we can all start to make a difference and reduce the number and severity of burns that occur every day.