Vaseline and burns

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 27 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1289

Vaseline should not be used as first aid for burns

  1. B A De Souza, plastic surgery registrar (bds{at},
  2. D Furniss, senior house officer,
  3. G Olaofe, burns and plastics nurse,
  4. M Jawad, locum consultant
  1. Burns Unit, Department of Plastic Surgery, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Fulham, London SW10 9NH

    EDITOR–We would like to draw attention to the inappropriate use of Vaseline as a first aid measure in burns.

    A 3 year old Nigerian boy sustained a 15% scald to his back and perineum in a hot water bath. The mother removed him from the bath and applied Vaseline immediately to all the burnt areas (figure, top). When questioned as to why she had done this, she reported that it is common practice in Nigeria and that it is recommended on the container (figure, bottom).


    Front (top) and back (bottom) of Vaseline container

    This is not the only case we have encountered in which Vaseline was used as a first aid measure for a scald in a child. We examined the containers for Vaseline manufactured in this country and in Nigeria, and both recommend its use for minor burns. This information is misleading as the initial aim in first aid burn treatment is to reduce the latent heat of the burn, thereby reducing skin damage by immersing the burnt area in cold water.

    Grease should never be applied to a fresh burn where the superficial part of the skin is missing. In addition to being occlusive, it is non-sterile, promotes bacterial proliferation on the surface of the wound, and may lead to infection.1 2 We propose that the manufacturers change their labelling system, to clearly state that Vaseline is not to be used as an immediate first aid measure for burns, but can be used as a subsequent dressing for minor burns.


    • Competing interests None declared.