It’s the foundation of baked goods and the perfect dredge for chicken and fish, but it can contaminate a burn wound, doctors say.
The claim: Flour can help heal burns because of its absorbent powers
Social media users have long used different platforms to share home and natural remedies. Recently, a Facebook post shared more than 181,000 times is touting the benefits of flour to treat burns.
The post recalls a man burning his hand in boiling water when a friend told him to stick it in a bag of flour for 10 minutes. Once he removed his hand, he claimed there were no red marks or blisters and no pain, adding that he now keeps a bag of flour in the fridge every time he burns himself.
“Flour has heat absorbent property and also has a strong antioxidant property, thus it helps in burn patients if applied within 15 minutes,” he wrote.
USA TODAY reached out to the user who made the post for comment.
Medical experts, however, disagree, and state that flour is not an approved treatment for any ailment.
More: Fact check: A mix of honey and cinnamon may have some health benefits, more studies needed
Flour is not an approved treatment
Dr. Joshua Carson, a physician at the University of Florida Health Shands Burn Center, said flour does not have the ability to heal burns.
If the burn was caused by scalding water, Carson said flour might help in absorbing moisture but otherwise did not see any benefits as claimed in the post.
The use of food to treat burns or wounds is not advisable and carries risks, he said, though sugar has sometimes been used to heal wounds because of its ability to soak up extra moisture.
“The biggest risk is contamination,” Carson said. “The other one is that you want to cool the wound off. Grease gets hotter than water, so you could make it worse.”
More: Fact check: Cream of tartar may make you sick but won’t cure migraines
The fact-checking website Snopes — which investigated this claim nearly a decade ago — found a medical journal in the 1840s that said flour could prevent scarring, but its advice appears to be nothing more than folk medicine. The same journal said more severe cases could be treated with “laudanum, ammonia, and brandy.”
Recommended treatment of burns
Carson said first-degree burns, which are common, can be treated from home.
“The first thing you want to do is cool the burn by rinsing it in cold water,” he said. “Avoid freezing it because it will just burn again.”
In addition to cooling the burn, the American Academy of Dermatology also advises:
- Applying a petroleum jelly two to three times daily.
- Covering the burn with a sterile, nonstick bandage.
- Considering taking over-the-counter pain medication.
- Protecting the burned area from the sun.
Carson said the treatment for second-degree burns is similar but advised anyone with burns to the face or hands or with a larger burn to go to the hospital.
The American Burn Association advises that burns smaller than 2-3 inches can be treated as minor burns.
Third-degree burns, the most severe category, require immediate medical attention regardless of the size, Carson said.
According to the American Burn Association, third-degree burns involve all layers of the skin and could result in tissue damage.
Our ruling: False
We rate the claim that flour can be used to treat burns as FALSE, based on our research. Flour is not an approved treatment method, and the use of food in treatment could lead to more complications, according to medical experts. Dredge a chicken, not your burns.
Our fact-check sources:
- Snopes, April 1, 2011, Should You Treat Burns with Flour?
- American Academy of Dermatology Association, HOW TO TREAT A FIRST-DEGREE, MINOR BURN
- Advanced Tissue, June 7, 2016, The Role of Sugar in Proper Wound Care Management
- Ameriburn, Initial First Aid Treatment for Minor Burns
- Cleveland Clinic, Burns: Management and Treatment
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