Egg Whites as a Burn Remedy? No

Urban Legend Can Harm - Egg Whites Are Not an Appropriate Treatment for Burns

Cracking egg in to cake mix
Justin Lambert/Photodisc/Getty Images

A viral message recommends covering burned skin with raw egg whites as a "miracle healing" home remedy. Is there any scientific basis for it? What do medical professionals say?

In this case, the email should be immediately trashed, perhaps with a warning to the person spreading it. Egg whites are not an appropriate treatment for burns, according to medical authorities. Following the advice in the email could result in more injury or delay appropriate treatment.

  • Description: Folk remedy
  • Circulating since: July 2011
  • Status: False (and possibly harmful)

Example of the Egg Whites for Burns Email(Note: Advice in Email is Not a Recommended Treatment)

Viral text contributed by a reader, July 20, 2011

Good to know!!
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 inflamed and engulfed him. He jumped from his truck, screaming. His neighbor came out of her house with a dozen eggs, yelling: "bring me some eggs!" She broke them, separating the whites from the yolks. The neighbor woman helped her to apply the whites on the young man's face. When the ambulance arrived and when 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.
Healing Miracle for burns:
Keep in mind this treatment of burns which is included in teaching beginner fireman this method. First aid consists to spraying cold water on the affected area until the heat is reduced and stops burning the layers of skin. Then, spread egg whites on 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 white 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.
This information could be helpful to everyone: Please pass it on

Analysis of the Egg White Burn Treatment Urban Legend Email

As in the case of a similar email recommending a coating of plain white flour to relieve and heal minor burns, the above text advising the use of raw egg whites for the same purpose runs contrary to accepted medical practice.

Conventional wisdom did once hold that minor burns were best treated by slathering traumatized skin with various oils, salves, and poultices — and even ready-to-hand household items like raw egg whites or flour if no other dressings were available — but this is no longer the case, and hasn't been for quite some time.

Current medical sources, including the Mayo Clinic and the American Red Cross, recommend treating a minor (first- or second-degree) burn by immersing it in cool water, then covering it loosely with dry, sterile gauze.

Those would be the measures taught to firefighters-in-training — not, as claimed above, applying raw egg whites to a burn victim's skin.

'Inappropriate Remedy,' Says Medical Journal

A 2010 article in the Journal of Emergency Nursing explicitly recommends against treating burns with raw egg whites. The study, entitled "First-Aid Home Treatment of Burns Among Children and Some Implications at Milas, Turkey," compares the outcomes of pediatric burn cases in which about half of the subjects had been treated with "inappropriate remedies" such as tomato paste, yogurt, and raw egg whites.

"No data supporting any benefit of applying or placing such types of agents on burned areas has been found," the author noted. Moreover, he wrote, "[t]he risk of infection from applying most of these inappropriate remedies to a fresh burn wound is obvious. For example, eggs can serve as an excellent culture medium for micro-organisms." And, in one particular case cited in a related study, a 13-month-old child with a second-degree burn went into anaphylactic shock after his parents treated it by rubbing a raw egg on his skin. It turned out he was allergic to eggs.

"Many of these burn injuries and incorrectly applied first-aid burn treatments can be avoided," the 2010 article concludes. "Educational programs that emphasize applying only cold water to burn injuries would be helpful in reducing burn-related morbidity."

As would a reduction in the circulation of forwarded emails touting unscientific "miracle cures."

Sources and Further Reading

Burns: First Aid Mayo Clinic

Ten Common First Aid Mistakes American Red Cross

First-Aid Home Treatment of Burns Among Children and Some Implications at Milas, Turkey  Journal of Emergency Nursing, March 2010

Pediatric Anaphylaxis: Allergic Reaction to Egg Applied to Burns  Journal of Emergency Nursing, June 2006

A Text-Book of Nursing by Clara S. Weeks-Shaw D. Appleton, publisher, 1899