On front of cardboard packaging: "AMBRINE // THE FIRST AND ONLY WAX DRESSING // ORIGINATED, DEVELOPED AND SUCCESSFULLY // USED BY // DOCTEUR BARTHE OF SANDFORT // A PROTECTIVE DRESSING // ASEPTIC // NON-ADHESIVE // NON-IRRITATING // PLIABLE AND PLASTIC // FOR // BURNS OF ANY CAUSE"; elsewhere on the packaging: "A COMBINATION OF PARAFFINS AND RESINOUS GUMS"; "AMBRINE IS USED BY THE FIGHTING FORCES OF THE ALLIES"
Storage Room 0010
On-site exhibit: "Trench Menders: Health Care in the First World War," 25 Feb, 2015.
Length 19.0 cm x Width 12.7 cm x Depth 2.7 cm
#1: Cardboard packaging ripped and stained by oil from the wax; #3: the package is torn.
Bundy, Elizabeth Roxana. Surgical Nursing in War. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston's Son & Co., 1917.; Churchill, Mary Smith. You Who Can Help. Boston: Small, Maynard and Company, 1918.; Hull, A. J. "The Treatment Of Burns By Paraffin." British Medical Journal 1.2924 (1917): 37-38.; Keen, William W. The Treatment of War Wounds. Philadelphia and London: W.B. Saunders Company, 1917.; Stuart-Nairne, Margaret. “Inventions I Have Seen During the War.” The British Journal of Nursing. 62 (1919): 329; CD #UHN
Ambrine is a paraffin wax mixture developed by Doctor Barthe de Sandfort of France to treat burns. Though developed more than a decade earlier, its use was popularized during World War I due to the increase in burn patients as compared to previous wars. It was also used to treat other instances of deep tissue damage such as frostbite or trench foot.
Application involved several steps. First, the burn is sterilized by being washed with one or a combination of sterile water, hydrogen peroxide, ether, or boric acid. Then the burn needs to be dried completely before the mixture can be applied, which can be accomplished by fanning or by laying a piece of gauze over the wound. A thin coating of melted ambrine is then applied to the site either using a soft-bristled brush or an atomizer. This is covered with a thin layer of cotton wool cut to the size of the burn. Another layer of ambrine is applied on top of this, and once it hardens a bandage is applied to hold the dressing in place. Burns would be dressed daily, or every second day later in treatment.
Ambrine was popular due to the rapidity with which burns healed, the reduced need for skin grafting, the lack of infection due to the air-tight dressing and reduced scarring.