Health Watch by Amanda Perrone

The North Jefferson News

Sunshine, warm weather and enjoying the outdoors seem to be accompanied by more cuts, scrapes and bruises.

May-be it’s because more of our skin is exposed compared to the winter months, or maybe it’s because we’re being more active rather than being cooped up inside with our school books and work.

Either way, it is important to know how to properly take care of these minor injuries.

Most of us can remember our parents and grandparents cleaning out our wound and telling us to “air it out.” This philosophy is a treatment method of the past.

We have now learned that leaving a wound open to air or just covering it with a dry bandage does more harm than good. The air causes the wound to dehydrate which delays healing, promotes bacterial entrance and leads to lifelong scarring. Also, if there is nothing keeping the wound moist, the scar and newly formed tissue can be torn away when removing the dry bandage or other covering.

When you encounter a cut or scrape, the first thing to do is to stop the bleeding. If available, always put gloves on before touching an open wound. If you do not have gloves, use many layers of cloth, tissue or even a plastic bag to guard your uninjured skin from the wound.

Apply pressure to the wound and hold the wounded area of the body above the level of the heart to help stop the bleeding. If the bleeding is severe, apply pressure for 15 minutes before lifting to check if it has stopped.

If the wound was caused by a foreign object, ask about the tetanus immunization status. If all of the basic series were completed, a booster is only needed every five to ten years.

Once the bleeding has stopped, you should begin cleaning the wound (see below for a list of wounds you may need the help of a professional with). You must clean the cut or scrape before applying any sort of medication or bandage. Covering a dirty wound will harvest infection. Rinse the affected area with normal saline or an antiseptic.

If possible, cleanse the wound with mild soap and warm water. It is important to get the wound as clean as possible. Scrubbing, though it may be painful and may start bleeding again, is necessary to properly cleanse the cut or scrape. Do not scrub an excessive amount or with too much pressure.

Unlike the traditional healing strategy of letting air get to the wound, the best thing to do is to keep the wound in a moist bandage. Moisture allows the wound to remain hydrated, prevents bacterial invasion, preserves the healing properties in some of the “ooze” created by the wound and prevents scarring.

Moisture also prevents the bandage from sticking to the skin and tearing tissue when changed. Topical antibiotics such as polymyxin, neomycin and bacitracin can be applied to the wound and/or bandage. These can be found in triple antibiotic ointments like Neosporin.

Once the wound has stopped bleeding, is clean and an ointment has been chosen and applied, an appropriately sized bandage or wrapping can be applied to the affected area.

The bandaging does not need to be changed everyday. It is recommended to change bandaging only when it gets dirty, wet, is no longer sticking to the area or every three to five days. Continue to clean, medicate and bandage until the wound has firmly closed and signs of inflammation have diminished. This process usually takes about two to three weeks.

There are times when self-care of wounds may not be appropriate. If the wound you are attempting to treat fits any of the following descriptions, you should seek professional help:

• Contains foreign matter even after cleansing

• Chronic wound

• Secondary to animal or human bite

• Signs of infection (foul odor, excessive swelling or oozing, throbbing pain, chills and/or fever)

• No signs of healing after five days of self-treatment

• Involvement of face, mucous membrane or genitalia

• Deep wound

Common antiseptics that can be used to cleanse the wound include:

• Iodine

• Povidone-iodine

• Hydrogen peroxide

• Camphorated phenol

Amanda Perrone is a Pharm-D candidate at Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy. Contact The Pharmacy at Mt. Olive at 631-1201.

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