Urgent need for awareness and education on burn wounds in SA’s vulnerable communities
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Ahead of burn awareness commemorations next month, Medika SA, creator of local woundcare brand, believes that widespread information about these types of bodily injuries could go a long way in regards 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,” project manager Danielle de Villiers explained.
She said that they are focused on burn awareness and treatment education in these underprivileged communities throughout the year, due to the frequency of these types of injuries.
“Our reality in South Africa is that many people are either living without electricity, or only have sporadic access to it and 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.”
In a bid to provide assistance for woundcare, Melcura™ supports organisations such as Heroburn, who educate and support burn victims and their families.
Dr Hugo Nel, an acclaimed plastic surgeon at Netcare Milpark Hospital who specialises in burn trauma, agrees that “a major burns injury is one of the most devastating insults a human being can experience”.
“It’s impact can not only cause multi-organ failure, but may also cause personality change and major emotional and psychosocial problems,” said Nel.
Meanwhile, registered nurse Renè Lessing insisted that early interventions for burn wounds were vital.
“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.”
“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,” siad Lessing.
She explained that extra caution was needed when caring for the skin as it is the largest organ in the human body and protects it from germs – such as bacteria, fungi and viruses – that live on surfaces.
“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.”
She said that burn injuries happen more frequently during the winter in South Africa due to several reasons.
This includes diabetic people with loss of feeling in their feet getting burnt with hot water and heaters, children pulling kettle chords or hot cups from the countertop, informal settlement fires due to lack of electricity as well as burns from certain chemicals in factories.
When it comes to treating burn wounds, Lessing said that ice, butter, toothpaste, ice water or egg whites should never be applied.
“These can introduce even more bacteria, or even increase the damage already done.”
Instead, she suggested rinsing the wound with running cool and clean water 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,” said Lessing.
Melcura™ has a wide range of wound treatments including its medical-grade honey which is suitable for most wounds.
Their Melcura™ HoneyGel can also be used to treat blisters, inflamed and infected wounds, as well as bite wounds.