Management of Burn Injuries in the Wilderness: Lessons from Low-Resource Settings

Wilderness Environ Med. 2016 Dec;27(4):519-525. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2016.09.001. Epub 2016 Oct 28.


Burns are a common source of injuries worldwide, with a high burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. Burns also account for 2%-8% of wilderness injuries. Although many are minor, the potential for serious morbidity and mortality exists, and standard treatments used in high-resource settings are not readily available in the backcountry. A literature review was performed to find evidence from low-resource settings that supports alternative or improvised therapies that may be adapted to care of burns in the wilderness. There is good evidence for use of oral rehydration to support volume status in burn patients. There is moderate evidence to support cold therapy as first aid and adjunct for pain control. Some evidence supports use of alternative dressings such as boiled potato peel, banana leaf, aloe vera, honey, sugar paste, and papaya when standard therapies are not available.

Keywords: alternative treatments; thermal injury; wilderness.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Bandages
  • Burns / therapy*
  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • First Aid / methods*
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Honey
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Wilderness Medicine / methods
  • Wound Healing