Health & Fitness

Doc Talk: For small wounds, keep them clean, protected

Across our lifespan, we experience wounds. Young active children get scrapes and cuts from everyday play, and adults encounter surgical wounds, infections and skin issues from chronic illness such as diabetes. All of us get wounds. Most of the time, these wounds heal without any problems.

Our body is quite amazing. Any wound can heal under the right conditions. It’s when those conditions are disrupted that the wound is unable to heal. The ideal conditions for wound healing are a clean, moist and friendly environment.

It’s a no-brainer for us to keep wounds clean. Most of us would use hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol or an antiseptic spray. These can be harmful to the healthy tissue in the wound and could prevent proper healing. It’s OK to use these products on small, fresh wounds but not on larger, chronic wounds. Sometimes it’s okay to clean with water and mild soap. Ideally, people should use normal saline or a wound cleanser.

We always have been told that we need to “air out” our wounds, but a moist wound-healing environment is best. If you have small wounds that are scabbed over, it’s usually best to leave the scab alone. However, for larger wounds that are more difficult to heal, a moist environment is best.

Many of us use an antibiotic ointment on our wounds. This is OK to use for a short time. But if used for a long period of time, an allergic reaction could occur. It’s best to just use petroleum jelly or wound gel to keep the surface of the wound moist and cover it with a clean dressing, such as gauze, to protect it. Nonstick dressings, such as Telfa, do not absorb drainage, so they are not always a good choice to cover a wound.

What makes a friendly wound environment? If infection is present, it must be treated by a physician. Infection is hostile to wound healing. Next, if there is any swelling in the arms or legs where the wounds are, the swelling needs to be controlled. This can be accomplished simply by elevating your leg or arm and by wrapping it with some sort of compression bandage. It is best to include the entire extremity in the compression wrap, otherwise you may cause a “tourniquet effect” which will cause swelling below and above the wrapped area.

For wounds to heal properly, keep them clean, moist and protected. These are just the basics for wounds that are simple and small. If you have large and complicated wounds, seek help as soon as possible before complications set in. Most simple wounds heal within a few weeks. If you have a non-healing wound, despite your best efforts, see your physician for evaluation and treatment.