A burn is damage to your body's tissues caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, sunlight or radiation. Scalds from hot liquids and steam, building fires and flammable liquids and gases are the most common causes of burns.  In a civil war reenactor’s world burns can come from the event such as burns from the campfire, cooking utensils such as pans, pots, and spoons.  From a rifle and from oil such as the can of bacon grease that we see at almost every fire.

There are three types of burns:

There is actually a 4th type of burn that is referred to as “To the Bone”.  This burn is rare and in almost all cases causes death.  It is caused mostly by chemical or plasma.  There is no real treatment for this injury.  The injury completely ceases the body’s ability to heal the affected area

Burns can cause swelling, blistering, scarring and, in serious cases, shock and even death. They also can lead to infections because they damage your skin's protective barrier. Antibiotic creams can prevent or treat infections. After a third-degree burn, you need skin or synthetic grafts to cover exposed tissue and encourage new skin to grow. First- and second-degree burns usually heal without grafts.


How To Treat a Minor Burn Injury:

If you have sustained a minor burn injury, the best thing you can do is to hold the affected part under running cold water for about 10 minutes.  You can also soak the affected part in cold water, in case you don't have access to a running stream of water. Cold water compress is another treatment.  Soak a smooth cloth in cold water and apply to the affected area.  Resoak the cloth every 5 minutes for 15 minutes.  Do not use a cloth that will leave lint on the injury.  I've known of people who use ice directly on a burn in the mistaken belief that doing so would alleviate the pain and prevent the burn injury from worsening. THIS IS A MISTAKE.  DO NOT APPLY ICE.  Ice can in fact make things worse, as it tends to stick to the affected area and could cause frostbite, thereby worsening things further.

Once the burn has been cooled with running water or cold compresses, dry the area carefully and gently with a towel and wrap it with a sterile, dry cloth.

You can use Aloe Vera or a burn ointment to the affected area to soothe it.

If there is significant pain, analgesic (pain relieving) drugs can be given such as over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen.

Do not apply substances such as oils or butter. These can trap heat and cause more injury.

I have also heard or treatment using beaten egg whites to heal a burn.  It replaces cologne, and protects the injury.

 How To Treat a Major Burn Injury:

If the burn injury is major, please seek prompt medical care. Do not remove any clothing that has stuck or adhered to the victim.

Remove any watches, bracelets, rings if those body parts are affected. These areas, if burnt, are likely to swell up and hence you should be removing these items as soon as possible before that happens.

DO NOT USE COLD WATER TO TREAT THIRD-DEGREE BURNS. Doing so might aggravate the state of shock of the victim.

Cover the burnt area in a clean, sterile, dry smooth cloth or bandage and transfer the victim to the hospital. If the area of burn is large, you can use a clean cotton bed sheet.


Prevention may seem like an impossible task, but simple little things can decrease your chances of a burn drastically.

§  Always be aware of your surroundings.  Assume that all rifle barrels, pots, pans, cups, spoons, and any metal objects are hot until you can safely prove they are not.  Always use a CANVAS glove or cloth when handling cookware or hot rifle barrels.  Leather or your handkerchiefs are not good insulators.

§  Campfires are hot.  Some people need to be reminded of this.  Do not put your hand in the fire for any reason.  If you want to poke the fire, use a stick or better yet, a fire poker.  Do not pick up any wood out of the fire.  When putting out a fire, do not use your hand to stir in water.

§  Always be careful of where your clothing is.  Ladies, a hoop is a VERY dangerous thing to be wearing in camp.  My suggestion is that if you are going through camp, remove the hoop.  Please do not wear a hoop if you are cooking or around the fire.  I have seen several dresses catch fire because of a hoop. 

§  Be very aware of children and spectators in the camp.  Be safety conscientious at all time. 

A document was made for the 3rd regiment called “Civil War reenactment Campfire Safety”.  This document tells about campfire safety at a civil war reenactment, and is a good suggestive read.