Sighs Aplenty / Petroleum & Plastic

Friday night I made a (very delicious) dinner of chicken thighs with artichokes, summer corn, garlicky red potatoes, and heirloom tomato salad, which I would have enjoyed enormously had I not seared off three of my fingertips during the cooking process. What happened: I went to take the lid off of the pot to add the artichokes, completely forgetting that the thing had been sitting in the stove (at 450 degrees Farenheit, no less) for the past half hour. Arrrrrr.

I’m vaguely incoherent in this video (pain combined with six thousand Tylenols makes me sleepy) and covered in melted ice (that’s what the spots on my shirt are; I’m not that messy), but here’s the take-home: a few years ago, I got in a fairly bad motorcycle accident in Canada (my parents and I used to take our motorcycles to visit my Canadian relatives every summer; for years I rode on the back, and then I finally got my own bike at 16). I hit an unmarked turn a little too quickly, skidded out on a patch of sand, and went down with my beloved Suzuki Savage. This is pretty much the last thing you want to have happen – the best-case scenario in a motorcycle accident is if you fly off the thing rather than taking down a several-hundred-pound piece of machinery with you. Between the hipbone that more or less came out to say hello, the disintegrated palms, and the odd scrapes left all over the rest of my body it’s a miracle that I ended up with no permanent damage save for a few scars, but blessings counted, etc.

Anyway, a couple of weeks after the accident my friend Thomasin held a dinner party at her place, and I decided to cook something involving boiling water (I don’t remember what, exactly) to bring over. I ended up pouring said boiling water over the mirror image of the spot that I had hurt in the accident (my right hipbone), and showed up at Thomasin’s place in tears. The idea that I had just hurt myself again – mere days after a physically (and emotionally) devastating accident – was just too much. My left hip was still scraped up, certain to scar; I couldn’t take the idea that the other side of my body would end up the same way just because I hadn’t gotten a strong grip on a pot handle.

I should probably have skipped the party, of course, but it was summer and I hadn’t seen my friends in ages, and by the time the pain really set in I was on my way over in a taxi. I stepped through the door, and Thomasin’s mom took one look at me and whisked me into the bathroom, slathered the area in Vaseline, and wrapped my torso in Saran Wrap. It felt better immediately, and ever since that’s been my go-to method for burn relief.


1. First, you need to stop the burning. This means removing any clothing that might still be touching the hot area and pressing a few cubes of ice wrapped in a clean cloth to the spot for about half an hour.

2. When you first remove the ice pack from the burn it will probably hurt like crazy, but trust me: the Vaseline helps enormously after only a few seconds (just have everything ready to go the second you remove the ice pack from the burn). Moving quickly, slather on a layer of petroleum jelly, and then wrap the burned area in some kind of plastic bandage (Saran Wrap works in a pinch). Be careful not to wrap it up too tightly; you don’t want to interfere with circulation to the area.

3. Leave the dressing on at least overnight, and then remove and continue to moisturize the area as it heals (and try not to mess with the blisters). I followed these steps last weekend, and my burned fingers are now completely pain-free and beautifully healed.

Update: Was informed via email that antibiotic ointments (like Neosporin) moisturize just as well as Vaseline, in addition to preventing infection. Good to know!

Again, and as always, I am very much not a doctor, so if you’re at all worried about your condition please seek for-real medical advice.

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