Medicine: Foil for Burns

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Steam from an exploding locomotive had scalded Fireman Frank Mihlan of the Erie Railroad. When he was carried into Cleveland's Charity Hospital on July 15, doctors thought that he had little chance of living: 70% of his body was burned. Erie Surgeons decided to try something new. They wrapped the patient in bandages made from paper-thin strips of aluminum foil, developed by Toronto's Dr. Alfred W. Farmer. It was the first time aluminum foil for burns had been used in the U.S., the first time it had ever been used for burns of the whole body.

Relief from pain was "miraculous"; within 20 minutes Mihlan was resting comfortably. As an added precaution, he was given intravenous fluids and penicillin. The aluminum foil, which looks like the inside wrapping of a cigarette package, acts as a seal for the body fluids that seep from burned surfaces. It also helps kill bacteria, speeds healing. Twelve days after being bandaged, Mihlan was out of bed. Last week, unscarred, but temporarily reddened, he left the hospital.