How Did Pioneers Treat Burns?

Burn treatments used by pioneers in America are as diverse as the pioneers themselves, coming from a myriad of cultures. It is important to keep a burn sealed and moisturized, so many pioneers used egg whites to coat the burn. Some turned to axle grease, which was made of animal fat and beeswax thinned with turpentine, to create a sterile seal.

Pioneers used strong tea on the burn and even applied a flour sack of calf manure to the burn overnight. In parts of the country, particularly the Southwest, aloe could be found and applied to burns, which is a treatment still used today. Soothing the burn with cool water and wearing a loose bandage around the wound were yet more methods.

The bandaging proved important, as breaking the blisters of a burn makes a wound vulnerable to infection. If a blister was broken, honey was often applied to the area to help keep the wound sterile. Honey is known for its healing properties. It offers antibacterial activity, maintains a moist wound surface and protects against infection. Second- and third-degree burns were prone to infection, and medicine was scarce for many pioneers, making these more serious burns potentially lethal wounds for pioneers.