A message circulating via email and social media claims that the use of egg whites on burns will reduce pain and prevent scarring. Is there any truth to this claim?
This is a traditional remedy, but it is not recommended by modern health organizations.
In fact, many health organizations recommend against the use of egg whites. The Mayo Clinic, for example, specifically states, “Don’t apply egg whites, butter or ointments to the burn. This could cause infection.”
Some in the natural community still endorse its use. (See, for example: “Healthy Solutions: A Guide to Simple Healing and Healthy Wisdom” by David N. Russell, PhD, 1999). The use of egg whites for burns is the 2nd most popular remedy on the prominent alternative medicine website EarthClinic.com
First, however, let’s take a look at one version of the claim as circulated in 2013:
Real interesting! Something i did not know, could come in handy.. A young man sprinkling his lawn and bushes with pesticides wanted to check the contents of the barrel to see how much pesticide remained in it. He raised the cover and lit his lighter; the vapors ignited and engulfed him He jumped from his truck, screaming. His neighbor came out of her house with a dozen eggs and a bowl yelling: “bring me some more eggs!” She broke them, separating the whites from the yolks. The neighbor woman helped her to apply the whites onto the young man’s face. When the ambulance arrived and the EMTs saw the young man, they asked who had done this. Everyone pointed to the lady in charge. They congratulated her and said: “You have saved his face.” By the end of the summer, the young man brought the lady a bouquet of roses to thank her. His face was like a baby’s skin. A Healing Miracle for Burns:
Keep in mind this treatment of burns is being included in teaching beginner fireman. First Aid consists of first spraying cold water on the affected area until the heat is reduced which stops the continued burning of all layers of the skin. Then, spread the egg whites onto the affected area.
One woman burned a large part of her hand with boiling water. In spite of the pain, she ran cold faucet water on her hand, separated 2 egg whites from the yolks, beat them slightly and dipped her hand in the solution. The whites then dried and formed a protective layer. She later learned that the egg white is a natural collagen and continued during at least one hour to apply layer upon layer of beaten egg white. By afternoon she no longer felt any pain and the next day there was hardly a trace of the burn. 10 days later, no trace was left at all and her skin had regained its normal color. The burned area was totally regenerated thanks to the collagen in the egg whites, a placenta full of vitamins. Since this information could be helpful to everyone: Please pass it on?
While modern medicine does not suggest using egg whites for burns, it has been used as a natural remedy for centuries. Some in the alternate medicine community still promote it. Miracle Food Cures from the Bible by Reece Dubin (1999) passes along a claim by John Heinerman which states, “Severe burns on the surface of the skin can be effectively treated with just olive oil and egg whites, when nothing else is available.”
Here are a couple of older articles which are examples of how the use of egg whites on burns was recommended. One example is from the 19th Century while the other is from the 20th Century. These are merely a few of countless examples that can easily be found:
- “If you rub the white of an egg over a burn, the burn will heal and not leave a scar.” Treasury of Nebraska Pioneer Folk, edited by Rogers L. Welsch. 1967
- “The white of an egg has proved a most efficacious remedy for burns; seven or eight successive applications of this substance soothe the pain and effectually exclude the air from the burn. This simple remedy seems preferable to collodion, or even cotton.” Popular Science, May-Oct 1889, p97.
Despite the historic use of egg whites for centuries to treat burns, modern medicine typically only recommends treating mild and moderate burns with cool water. Below are some recommendations on popular health-related websites:
- American Red Cross: “Treat a burn with cool water. If a burn is severe and starts to blister, make sure to see a doctor.”
- Mayo Clinic suggests to 1. Cool the burn, 2. Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage, 3. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Dr. Andrew Weil suggests to run the affected part in cold water for 5-10 minutes, and then apply Aloe Vera gel, Calendula tincture, or medical-grade honey.
- Medline Plus suggests, “To treat a minor burn, run cool water over the area of the burn or soak it in a cool water bath (not ice water). Keep the area submerged for at least 5 minutes.”
- CDC recommends: Apply cool compress or immerse in cool water, cover with a sterile/clean cloth, do NOT apply ointments or butter in order to avoid infection, take a pain reliever, and seek medical attention if necessary.
Taught to beginning firemen?
The claim that the application of egg whites to burns is now being included in instruction for young firefighters appears to be completely without merit. We found no evidence of this whatsoever.
Argument that Modern Medicine has an agenda
Suspicious readers scoff at recommendations by official health organizations, for fear that these large entities have an agenda of dissuading the use of alternative remedies. The problem with this argument, however, is that most of the above suggestions are to simply treat with cool water, which hardly indicates an agenda.
The primary reason you shouldn’t use egg whites on burns
The use of egg whites has fallen out of favor by modern medicine, due in part to the fact that raw eggs can contain Salmonella, and the application of this to a wound could cause more problems than the burn itself. There is also some evidence that applying egg whites to burns doesn’t work at all.
Applying an unproven substance – which could potentially be tainted with Salmonella – onto a burn is not worth the risk. Immersing a mild to moderate burn in cool water is the preferred treatment, without the risk of the potentially serious infection.
Updated November 3, 2014
Originally published March 2013