Exploring perceptions of common practices immediately following burn injuries in rural communities of Bangladesh

Burns can be the most devastating injuries in the world, they constitute a global public health problem and cause widespread public health concern. Every year in Bangladesh more than 365,000 people are injured by electrical, thermal and other causes of burn injuries. Among them 27,000 need hospital admission and over 5600 people die. Immediate treatment and medication has been found to be significant in the success of recovering from a burn. However, common practices used in the treatment of burn injuries in the community is not well documented in Bangladesh. This study was designed to explore the perception of local communities in Bangladesh the common practices used and health-seeking behaviors sought immediately after a burn injury has occurred.

A qualitative study was conducted using Focus Group Discussions (FGD) as the data collection method. Six unions of three districts in rural Bangladesh were randomly selected and FGDs were conducted in these districts with six burn survivors and their relatives and neighbours. Data were analyzed manually, codes were identified and the grouped into themes.

The participants stated that burn injuries are common during the winter in Bangladesh. Inhabitants in the rural areas said that it was common practice, and correct, to apply the following to the injured area immediately after a burn: egg albumin, salty water, toothpaste, kerosene, coconut oil, cow dung or soil. Some also believed that applying water is harmful to a burn injury. Most participants did not know about any referral system for burn patients. They expressed their dissatisfaction about the lack of available health service facilities at the recommended health care centers at both the district level and above.

In rural Bangladesh, the current first-aid practices for burn injuries are incorrect; there is a widely held belief that using water on burns is harmful.