SPOILER ALERT: HUNGER GAMES BOOK 1 – Having recently finished the Hunger Games series, I found it interesting that there were many medical and dermatology references in the books. In general, I found them to be well thought out, but some had technology or medical inventions that clearly aren’t available now, such as Peeta’s bionic leg he receives at the end of the first book. On the other hand, there are many dermatologic happenings in the books that are true or close to true. I am going to go over a few of these now and will continue to comment over the next few weeks or so.

The first medical event in the Hunger Games is the burn that Katniss suffers from the Gamesmakers’ fire. What she does after the burn is perfect – she takes the area and immerses it in cold water. Then, she takes off her burnt outfit in that area and cleans it off, which is again outstanding. Next, the book details the fact that there are blisters and red tissue, but no black/charred skin. This means that she has a 2nd degree to deep 2nd degree burn. If there were charred or white discoloration to the burn that would make it a 3rd degree burn, which would have had a more serious outcome (but who knows what the medical advances of the Capitol could have done with even that?).

2nd degree burns are treatable, but generally need a thick paste called Silvadene, which is a ‘sulfa’ drug antibiotic paste. If patients are allergic to sulfa, then we use other antibiotics like Bactroban or Polysporin. But guess what: I can assure you that these weren’t what were parachuted into the arena as they wouldn’t have resulted in immediate pain relief or clearance of the burn in such a short time period.

Burn treatments take weeks for a deep second degree burn as Katniss had. Additionally, they almost always end up with a scar (and I will be talking about scar treatments later on in future blogs and the reality of what can and can’t be done for a scar). Pain, on the other hand, is something that just doesn’t disappear with one application of an ointment.

Sadly, pain is the most difficult aspect of a burn to control and generally, it is treated with morphine or other injectable pain killers. It takes weeks to heal as the nerves are injured and this is what causes the pain. If there is no pain, then this generally means it is due to a 3rd degree burn, which is only treatable at present with a skin graft. That would be tough to parachute into the arena!

For very minor burns (1st degree or superficial 2nd degree), a healing balm such as the FixMySkin 1% Hydrocortisone Healing Balm, which my son and I invented (www.LovelySkin.com/balm) is a great choice, but it doesn’t appear that Haymitch knew about this or he would have certainly sent that to Katniss immediately or it would have had product placement in the movie…

Thanks for being a part of my blog and I will be posting other thoughts on the medical aspects of this book/movie over the next few weeks as I find it fascinating as a book and sometimes it helps to know what really is possible at present and what is fancy. Until then, take care! Joel Schlessinger MD

Posted Saturday, April 14th, 2012 at 4:06 pm
Filed Under Category: Uncategorized
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