Picric Acid Dressing

Medically some of the injuries that are most susceptible to infection are burns and scalds. The exposed inner layers can easily become breeding grounds for gangrene and other nasties. The burn flesh is also extremely delicate and of course painful to the patient. Burns are very common in wartime, with explosions, fire and chemical burns all easy to come across on the battlefield. To help medical officers treat injured troops the British Army issued specialist dressings containing picric acid:imageAs can be seen this dressing is not in the best of conditions, but the instructions are still easily readable on the front:imageThe dressing is a lint dressing impregnated with dried picric acid, water is applied to dissolve the acid and make it wet, the bandage then being applied. This is wrapped in a waxed cloth wrapper, which has become very fragile on this example, and the label is then pasted to the front. The Memoranda for the ‘Guidance of Medical Officers and Other Personnel at First Aid Posts’ published in 1939 advised on the treatment of burns:

No attempt should be made at cleaning these (i.e. burns). They should simply be covered with a suitable dressing. The burn dressing (picric acid) should be moistened before application. Picric acid does not interfere with the efficiency of tannic acid dressing applied later. Morphia will probably be required.

This bandage is marked with the /|\ mark showing it is War Department property and a date of 1943:imageThese bandages are not as common as shell dressings and first field dressings so I was pleased to pick this one up, however I feel it is in too poor a condition to be put in my shell dressing bag as this would probably destroy what is left of the label. Instead it will be carefully displayed flat to keep it in as good a condition as possible.

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