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Fact Check-Egg white should not be used to treat burns due to infection risk

Experts contacted by Reuters agreed that applying egg white to burns can cause serious infection and is not recommended as a treatment, contrary to advice in old posts resurfacing online.

Shared over 400,000 times, the posts (here , here) describe two anecdotes of how egg whites were purportedly used to heal burns successfully, recommending people add egg whites to burns to form a protective layer, acting as a “collagen” or glue, that is full of vitamins. Some posts are originally from as far back as 2013, but they are being shared in April 2021, for example here , here and here with captions including, “Good to know!” and “Worth repeating.”

“There is no scientific evidence to support this treatment and using egg whites can be very dangerous,” Dr Alejandro Garcia (here), Director of the Pediatric Burn Program at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Reuters via email. He explained: “Raw eggs may contain salmonella, which is a type of bacteria that can cause severe infections. Salmonella or other bacteria that are applied to an open wound such as a burn could lead to a local infection and potentially more severe systemic infections leading to sepsis or even death.”

Dr. Matthew Sztajnkrycer, Emergency Medicine Physician at the non-profit academic medical center the Mayo Clinic (here) agreed, telling Reuters via email, “A major role of skin is to protect the body from infection […] Burns are very prone to infection and salmonella infection may be catastrophic.”

Sztajnkrycer went on to explain how a recent medical study in Iran (here) did find that patients whose burns were treated with an egg white-based ointment healed slightly faster, however he says this is “very different than simply placing raw egg white on a fresh burn” as this was a “very controlled study” where many patients were “excluded due to risk factors” and it was “performed by specially trained surgeons at a regional burn center.”

Dr Laura Johnson, burn surgeon at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center (here) advised Reuters via email that for the best long-term results people should see a burn specialist before applying anything other than water to a burn, as there is “little data” on eggs for treating burns, and the data that does exist is “in combination with a topical antimicrobial that can only be acquired with a prescription”, which reduces the infection risk.

The World Health Organization, the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the Mayo Clinic advise here , here and here that minor burns should be treated with cool water to reduce the temperature of the burn and then once cooled, lotion such as aloe vera or over-the-counter antibiotic ointment should be applied, and the area dressed loosely with a clean bandage. They say that more severe burns may require urgent treatment by medical professions.

Reuters previously debunked false claims that flour could be used to heal burns here .

VERDICT

False. Several burn experts told Reuters that applying egg white to burns is not recommended due to the dangerous risk of salmonella infection.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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