Home | Clinical Practice | Sweet relief

Sweet relief

Honey can help speed up healing in some burns.

A cream commonly used to treat burns may actually delay healing, with some health professionals looking at more natural remedies. Increased understanding of the wound healing process means that there are now a large number of ways to treat burns, say Cochrane Researchers who carried out a systematic review of existing data.
Films, gels, artificial skins and fibre dressings may all help to heal wounds, but doctors still often turn to traditional gauze dressings, as well as silver sulphadiazine (SSD) cream.
Healthcare providers have used SSD cream since the 1960s to minimise the risk of burns becoming infected, although concerns have recently been raised about its toxic effects on skin cells.

The Cochrane team found SSD cream increases the time taken for a wound to heal and the number of dressing applications required.

“We think that the use of SSD cream on burn wounds needs to be reconsidered,” says lead researcher, Jason Wasiak, who works for the Victorian Adult Burns Service at the Alfred Hospital.

Trials showed that a number of different dressing types, including polyurethane films, hydrocolloid gels and biosynthetic dressings, can be more effective for treatment of moderate burns than SSD or standard chlorhexidine impregnated gauze dressings.

The researchers say there is a strong case for larger and better designed trials that will help inform health workers about the most appropriate treatments for burns of different severities.

“There is a need to clearly estimate burn depth in order to make proper recommendations as to the best products for treating burns,” Wasiak says.

One of these products may be honey.

In a different study, Cochrane researchers found that honey might be useful as an alternative to traditional wound dressings in treating burns, and may reduce the healing times in patients suffering mild to moderate burn wounds.

“We’re treating these results with caution, but it looks like honey can help speed up healing in some burns,” says lead researcher Dr Andrew Jull, of the Clinical Trials Research Unit at the University of Auckland.

Honey has been used in wound treatment since ancient times. The mechanism of action is unclear. While honey may help the body remove dead tissue and provide a favourable environment for the growth of new, healthy tissue, current interest in medicinal honey focuses largely on its antibacterial effects.

The review brings together data from 19 clinical trials involving 2554 patients with a range of different wounds. Honey was more effective in reducing healing time compared to some gauze and film dressings that are often used to treat moderate burns. However, the researchers were unable to show any clear benefits for the healing of grazes, lacerations, surgical wounds and leg ulcers.

The researchers don’t advise using honey to treat other types of wounds.

“Health services should invest in treatments that have been shown to work,” Jull says.

“But, we will keep monitoring new research to try and establish the effect of honey.”

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the top stories in our weekly newsletter Sign up now

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *