Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Beer Can Be Good For Burns

By Magdeline Lum

A case study documents the use of beer as a rehydration fluid for a burns patient.

A case report in Emergency Medicine Australasia last year has described how a 65-year-old-man with 40% burns recovered after a self-prescribed rehydration regime. As Dr Dexter Chan of the University of Melbourne reported with colleagues in Hong Kong:

“We present the case of an unusual fluid resuscitation regime in a 65-year-old man with 40% burns. He fell into a garden fire, but believing the hospital to be closed, waited at home drinking six cans (2L) of ‘San Miguel’ beer, with no other fluid intake, before attending the ED the next morning, 17h after injury.”

The extent of the man’s burns included his upper limbs, torso and face. It is accepted practice that any patient with burns to more than 20% of the body requires fluid resuscitation, though usually not with beer. Incorrect rates of fluid resuscitation can lead to complications and even death.

The man’s presentation at the hospital and his recovery was noted:

“Initial laboratory tests showed evidence of mild dehydration, which fully resolved within 24h; and subsequent recovery was unremarkable.”

Before beer-lovers can celebrate over another cold one, the authors state: “But no one recommends resuscitation with beer.”

All is not lost, though. Previous studies have suggested the use of alcohol as part of a fluid resuscitation regime, as the authors note:

“However, alcoholic beverages have been advised for ongoing fluid requirements following burn injury. Fauntleroy described a continuous rectal infusion of ‘normal salt, sodii bicarbonas and 4 per cent to 8 per cent glucose’, supplemented by large quantities of oral fluids every 2h ‘with the addition of small amounts of whiskey during the night’.”

It should also be made clear that Fauntleroy’s study was conducted in 1919 and that the world of medicine has changed a lot since then.

Yet beer could still be the choice of fluid for rehydration. Studies gathered by Centro de Informacion Cerveza y Salud (the Centre of Beer and Health Information) has shown that beer can be effective as an oral rehydration fluid after athletic exercise, with no adverse effects.

Sadly, this was not enough to convince the authors that beer is an acceptable choice as a resuscitation fluid. It is also unlikely that research into the properties of beer as a resuscitation fluid will take place. As the authors note:

“To our knowledge, this is the first report of burns resuscitation with beer. We do not advocate its routine use; and a randomized controlled trial of beer versus conventional i.v. fluids is unlikely to be approved.”

The authors conclude that the patient’s recovery may be due to the selection of his beer: “Alternatively, our patient may have just been fortunate in his choice of beer. ‘San Miguel’ (St Michael) is the patron saint of paramedics.”

Snail-Paced Tragedy
Eight hundred large carnivorous Powelliphanta augusta snails died in a Department of Conservation fridge in New Zealand over a long weekend public holiday. A faulty temperature gauge is to blame. The temperature of the fridge fell from a balmy 10°C to a cool 0°C, slowly killing all but one of the snails.

Powelliphanta snails are endemic to the South Island of New Zealand. In 2007, 6000 Powelliphanta snails were removed from Stockton Plateau in preparation for Solid Energy’s coal mining operations. The species was only discovered in 1996 and little is known about them.

But there is some good news. The 800 snails were separate from a population of 1600 other Powelliphanta snails that are also kept in captivity in a separate fridge. Another 4000 snails have been reintroduced to the wild on the Denniston Plateau, but this population is now under threat from coal-mining plans.

Powelliphanta augusta is listed as Nationally Critical by the New Zealand government, which corresponds to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Landcare Research says the snails moved from the fridges to new sites last year are breeding too slowly for the populations to survive. New homes for the Powelliphanta augusta snails are limited because the snails can’t adapt to different habitats or because other snail species are already there.