Treatments for Scalds and Burns a Hundred Years Ago

15-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, March 8, 1911: I arose with the feeling this morning that things were sure to go wrong today and they certainly did this forenoon. I had the misfortune to scald my left hand this morning. Be told, if you weren’t careful you had to suffer surely enough. Oh how my hand did burn this morning. I was in agony nearly all forenoon, and then we had examinations too, but every day brings some new pleasure in life to balance with the pain.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later: 

I guess that Grandma was a bit of a klutz. This is the second time in five weeks that she burned her hand—the previous time was on February 6 when she burned it on the wood or coal stove at school while horsing around. And, on February 19 she’d cut her finger while doing dishes.

Recommended treatments for burns have changed over the past hundred years. The Compendium of Every Day Wants  recommended:


Treatment No. 1.—A good remedy to apply to burns is a mixture of equal parts of linseed oil and lime water. This is shaken and applied by saturating cloths and placing them over the burned places, and over the cloths place cotton batting or flannel. Secure the whole with a light bandage. The air must be kept from all burns. This is of primary importance and they must also be kept warm.

Treatment No. 2.—Burns may be treated with fresh lard, lard oil, sweet oil, vaseline, cold cream or olive oil. Wrap in cotton batting or flannel.

Treatment No. 3.—Carbonate of soda is the best of all remedies in cases of scalds and burns. It may be used on the surface of the burned place, either dry or wet. When applied promptly the sense of relief is magical. It seems to withdraw the heat, and with it the pain, and the healing process commences.

Treatment No. 4.—A coating of wheat flour or cornstarch can be used if the soda is not handy, but if the skin is open, better use linseed oil, olive oil, or vaseline.

Compendium of Every Day Wants (1908)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s