Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Burn relief for a crazy person (right from the fridge/pantry! )

If you're in the kitchen a lot, no doubt, you've burned yourself a lot of times. I know I have. And I never seem to learn. It always seems to be the stupidest actions that burn the most - like when you pull a tray out of the oven, set it on the stovetop, take your glove off, then completely forget it's hot, and pick it up to move it. There goes the cookies, you say. There goes some of my skin, you say... Oh dear. Or am I alone here?

Anyway, as I was hurriedly leaving my day job on Wednesday, I stopped to wash up my plate from lunch. (The gourmet that I am - lunch was three processed vege hot dogs, on a plate. No sauce, no bun. And I ate them with a spoon, because there were no forks in the drawer. The things you do - they're a source of protein, vitamins and minerals!! - I am not ashamed). 

In my office kitchen, on the left, there is one tap with the option of ice-cold/fiercely boiling, straight from the tap, and two, and on the right, a conventional hot/cold water tap. My little routine is that I put my plate in the sink, turn the boiling hot water onto it, while I check the temperature of the tap on the right with my hand, to cool, so I can then rinse, pick up, and dry the plate.

It all went well until I stuck my hand right under the boiling water tap, not the cool water tap. And being tired, my reflexes took longer than I would have liked to rip my hand out from right up under there. Gosh, that hurt.
My new mortal enemy. You have foiled me for the last time, plumbing-beast.

 When I got home, the pain was pretty darn intense. Now, I know everyone swears by Aloe Vera, but truth be told, it has never worked for me. And being my difficult self, I seem to have some undesirable reaction to it - which makes my skin itchy and red. So I kept my hand under cool water as long as I could, but, with conventional wisdom saying to hold it there at least 10 minutes, it's just impractical. I held ice packs on, and being hot here, I replaced them regularly, for about 4 hours - the pain did not lessen at all. Eventually, I couldn't keep anything cold enough to be effective. I had to come up with another solution, because I was heading to bed soon and had no idea how I'd be able to sleep with a hand full of fire. I couldn't believe the pain was still so intense after so long. I also knew that the next morning, I'd have to go do a lot of baking, in a hot commercial kitchen (somewhere you don't want a burnt, sensitive hand).

Now, before we go any further, I want you to know that I am not a medical professional, and I cannot, and will not, give health advice. I'm just telling you what works for me - and if I suspected a burn was something very serious that required medical attention, was bleeding, instantly blistered, or similar, I would get myself immediately to a hospital! (Gee, I wish we didn't live in an age where everyone was a potential litigator and we didn't have to use such weasel words, but we do. And, truly - burns can be a very serious business).

The solution: something I'd read in a book called "The People's Pharmacy", years ago, that had worked for me in the past - 100x better than anything else. First of all, immerse your hand under cold water for as long as you can. Then, you're all gonna think I'm crazy, but here goes: soy sauce. Now, most of you know that I'm fairly scientifically minded, and take pretty much everything anyone says to me with a grain of salt (and fairly extensive investigative research ;), ha!), but this is no old wives' tale. For me, it works. And it has worked a number of times.

It's Soooooooooooy Sauce!
What I do is find a way to immerse the burnt area completely, and continually, in soy sauce. In this case, it was on the top of my hand - so I filled up a dish with soy sauce, placed it on the coffee table, lay on the couch, and rested my hand (top-down), in the dish, while I watched TV (multi-tasking laziness with a purpose: brilliant!). As usual, within 10 minutes, the pain had at least halved, and within 40 minutes, the pain was pretty much entirely gone. Every time it works, I'm gobsmacked. But it does, every time!

How does this work? I have no idea. Chef friends have told me they think it is because, when applied to meat, soy sauce draws blood to the surface. And when it's on my hand, it kind of feels like it "draws heat" out of my hand, and into the soy sauce. If you've ever burnt soy sauce, you know that familiar, Asian BBQ smell - quite thick, unpleasant, burnt, and salty. Oddly enough, as I was sitting there, James mentioned (without him knowing what I was doing) that he was noticing an unpleasant smell in the house - like burnt soy sauce and barbequed meat! I guess that was my hand cooking, in a way. The salt almost forms a crust over your skin, which seems to stop the pain. Does it have something to do with the probiotics that occur in soy sauce? The natural alcohol? Who knows. I haven't found any clear answers, through much research.

It was a pleasure to get a good night's sleep, wake up the next morning - and still no pain. Perhaps minimal tightness/discomfort with stretching in the kitchen the next morning. Here is my hand, the morning after the burn:

Still a little swollen, but it's still good - it's still good!
A day after the burn, I applied rose hip and calendula oils on the burn, to help the appearance of the skin. This seemed to make my hand redder, and didn't help - but I still did it for two days. A medical worker subsequently also cautioned against applying oils to burnt skin. Here's a photo of my hand, as I write this, approximately 60 hours after the burn (and with possible oil-caused bonus redness).
Today! Maybe I need to apply some more?! Oh my gosh, I might become a soy sauce addict! (Not).
Of course, when I'm applying something to distressed skin (or any time!), I make sure it's as natural and unprocessed as normal. In a time like this, I wouldn't want preservatives, colours, MSG or other additives on my skin. The soy sauce we have in the house is a supermarket variety, but a top shelf one - Kikkoman. Simply water, soybeans, wheat, salt and naturally occurring alcohol from the fermentation process. And I wouldn't use low-sodium soy sauce for this, the salt seems to be an important factor.

Simple, traditionally brewed: nothing weird or gross here!
I happened to mention what I was doing on Twitter, and a few people got quite agitated at me. They felt that what I was doing was incredibly stupid, and that I should follow conventional medical thought (which I had, and wasn't working). As far as I'm concerned - as long as it works, without harm, it's my personal decision - I'll keep doing it. Some people recommended applying lavender oil, amongst a bunch of other things - but I just didn't feel comfortable putting most things, especially something as potent as lavender oil, directly on a burn (but go figure, soy sauce is OK!)

Has anyone else tried this?


  1. Next time I burn myself I'll try it and let you know how it goes :)

  2. I usually use the cold water then aloe treatment with success, but soy sauce? I've never heard of this and it does seem weird. If I'm unfortunate enough to burn a finger, I'm going to try it. I wonder if tamari will be equally effective.

  3. Soy sauce, on a burn?! I'm surprisingly clumsy so I'll have to try this next time. Great tip!


  4. Never heard of it before. How intriguing. I wonder if it works with Tamari, for the gluten free people? :)

  5. No way. That's so cool. But dangerous in the sense that you make me want to burn myself. I could read about your adventures all day.

  6. Hmm, I've not tried this but am curious now. I burn myself often, but usually just a little - I brush the oven rack with my hand when taking something out of the oven, or I touch the side of the skillet while trying to flip pancakes. Soy sauce may be just the trick. (But I won't be trying to burn myself on purpose to test it out!)

  7. Thanks everyone! I'm pleased to report that even though some of the skin peeled away, I now have beautiful, fresh skin that is not scarred in the slightest - in fact, it makes the rest of my hand look old (so much for a tan looking better!). Perhaps some of this can be traced to the cold water and ice, but I believe it's the soy sauce.


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