May 09 2011

How to treat a motorbike burn

Published by at 1:19 pm under Health & safety


Every day in Saigon around four million motorbikes hit the street, and for every bike you also get an extremely hot exhaust pipe.  Whether walking by a parked bike on the footpath or riding on the back, even the most careful traveller may bump into one of these accidents waiting to happen.

Don't tell my mum but this is my leg...ouch!

The first motorbike burn I got was by accidentally bumping into a parked bike; the second time at least I was actually on the bike. So if you happen to get burnt along the way, here are the best methods to treat your wound if it happens to be a minor burn (considered less than about 8cm or 3 inches in diameter).

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is important to cool the burn. Cooling the burn will stop swelling and relieve some of the pain. Hold the burn under cool running water for 10 to 15 minutes; if this is impossible, cool it with a cold compress. It’s important to not put ice on the burn as this can cause frostbite.

Next, bandage the burn. This keeps air off the affected area, which reduces pain and protects blistered skin. Cover the burned area with a sterile gauze bandage, which you can find in the many pharmacies around the city. Don’t use a material that could get lint in the wound. Wrap the gauze lightly to put as little pressure as possible on the burned skin.

Lastly, if you need to, take an over-the-counter medicine to relieve pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol will all work fine.

Here are a few good pharmacies:

Thien Thanh Drug Store
345A Nguyen Trai St., Nguyen Cu Trinh W., District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 3838 5061

Minh Thanh Drug Store
T: (08) 3920 0446
579 Tran Hung Dao St., Cau Kho W., District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Although, a little further out of downtown, My Chau Pharmacy is one of the largest, well-stocked pharmacies in the city:
My Chau Pharmacy
389 Hai Ba Trung, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 3822 2266

Minor burns like these usually heal on their own without further treatment. As the wound heals, watch for signs of infection, such as increased pain, swelling, fever, redness, or oozing. If you think an infection has developed, or you have any concerns, seek medical advice.

From experience, I know these burns suck. They sting, look gross, and are in all aspects inconvenient. I think the best way to treat your burn is by not getting one at all. If you ride on a bike, wear pants and shoes that will protect feet and legs from hot metal.

Caution: this pipe has the ability to ruin your week

When your burn does finally heal remember to keep it out of the sun because it may tan differently than the rest of your leg. You may have a scar, or slightly discoloured skin, but when you look at it, at least it may hopefully remind you of the great time you had biking around Vietnam…

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “How to treat a motorbike burn”

  1. Teeon 09 May 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Some remedies me and my family’s been using. Pour medicated oil onto the burn but do not rub it. It stings a little at first but then it’ll cool down quickly and leave no scar. Toothpaste also works fine.

  2. Grace Lewison 10 Jun 2011 at 6:06 am

    My friend is currently healing from some nasty road rash and she learned that if you keep it covered in something like vaseline (which prevents a thick scab from forming) it will minimize scarring. Something to do with the way the layers of skin heal. It sounded weird, but her leg actually looks really good. It’s still very pink, but there isn’t much unevenness in the skin.

  3. […] that you don’t end up joining the ranks of tourists sporting a ‘Samui tattoo’ — though they aren't unique to newbie riders in Samui — a burn on the right calf caused by the exhaust when […]

  4. Sarahon 06 Sep 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Just happened to me last week. I use Watkins salve and my mom also told me raw honey is a good one to use.
    My burn is healing nicely.

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