A picture taken on January 8, 2020, shows flour at a bakery in Paris. ( AFP / Philippe Lopez)

Facebook posts falsely tout flour as treatment for burns and scalds

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Multiple Facebook posts shared repeatedly claim that flour is an effective treatment for burns and scalds. However, health experts call the claim "absolutely false" and told AFP that flour is not recommended as a treatment for burns and scalds as putting flour into an open wound can cause infection. They advise people to clean burn wounds with water and those who experience serious burns should seek professional medical help for proper treatment. 

The claim was shared here on Facebook on December 8, 2021.

Translated to English, the post's Thai-language caption partly reads: "I burned my hand accidentally when I was cooking a boiling soup in the pot. Then I put my hand in the bag full of flour for 10 minutes. I was so surprised. There were no wounds or red marks. Not a single trace of my injury left. Every time when I burn myself, I would always use flour as a solution.

"If you put the flour in the fridge, it will even work better."

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on January 14, 2022

Identical claims have been shared on Facebook here in 2020, here in 2019 and here in 2014. 

However, the claim is false.

Dr Apichai Angspatt, an associate professor at the Department of Surgery of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, told AFP the claim is "absolutely false".

"When you burn yourself, the first thing you have to do is to clean it with water and then dry it gently," he told AFP on January 13, 2021.

Skin protects germs from entering our body, so putting flour which is not clean can infect the open wound and make it worse, Dr Apichai said.

He also added that flour "does not have medical properties to heal the wound".

"If your wound is small or very minor, you may buy anti-inflammatory cream and apply it on the wound. If it is big, you should go to the hospital so that the doctor can evaluate the scale of your injury and treat it properly."

Dr Nataya Voravutinon, a dermatologist at the Institute of Dermatology Thailand, under the Thai Ministry of Public Health, also called the claim "fake news".

"After the burn, you should clean your wound with either water, saline water as soon as possible," she told AFP on January 13, 2021. "You may also apply topical antibiotic cream on the wound." 

Dr Nataya added: "I certainly don't recommend putting flour onto your open wound as we are not sure if it's clean."

She said that the treatment of wounds caused by burns or scalds may vary depending on the size, the area and how severe it is.

"In a worst-case scenario, some people who experienced serious injury may have long-term problems with their joint or movement. So it is better to seek help from a medical doctor," she said. 

Thailand’s Anti-Fake News Center, a government-run fact-checking platform, also debunked the claim in an article on January 6, 2022, claiming the social media posts contained “fake information”.

The article, which refers to the guideline from the Ministry of Public Health, states that "flour can't treat wounds caused by burning or scalding. Even worse, it will increase the risk of inflammation. When experiencing burns or scalds, you should clean the wound and put the ice pack to relieve the pain."