Our bodies are designed to heal themselves quickly and to ward off infection. We can help them do this by knowing the basics of proper wound care, learning to properly identify the severity of our wounds, and by seeking medical attention when natural healing is not enough.
Knowing the Basics
With any wound, the most important thing to remember is to clean it thoroughly and cover it as quickly as possible. This will help rid the wound of any foreign bacteria present and it will limit the risk of further exposure.
There are some simple steps everyone should take when addressing minor wounds on their own:
- Wash your hands – before touching the wounded area, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
- Stop the bleeding – most minor cuts and scrapes will stop bleeding on their own after a few minutes have passed. If they do not, apply gentle pressure to the wound and elevate it until the bleeding stops. If the wound is bleeding excessively or if bleeding does not stop after first aid has been applied, contact a medical professional as quickly as possible.
- Clean the Wound – thoroughly rinse the wound with clean water. Keeping a wound beneath running water will help to ward off infection. Once the wound is rinsed, wash the surrounding area with soap. Be careful not to apply soap directly into the wound, as this can lead to increased irritation. When you are finished washing the surrounding area, rinse the wound once more.
- Apply Antibiotic Gel or Ointment – if available, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment over the wound. This will help the wound heal more quickly and will assist in warding off infection as well.
- Cover the Wound – cover or wrap open wounds with a bandage or rolled gauze. It is important to avoid wrapping the wound too tightly, as this can restrict blood flow to the injured area and can lead to swelling. Most minor cuts and scrapes do not need to be covered so long as they are properly cleaned.
- Change the Dressing – as your wound begins to heal, be sure to change the bandage or covering at least once a day, or if the wrapping becomes damaged, wet, or dirty.
When to Seek Help
Be sure to get help immediately if your wound bleeds excessively or if bleeding persists for more than 15-20 minutes without slowing. It is also advised to seek medical attention if your wound does not begin healing on its own or if there is little-to-no progress after a few days. On average, the initial stages of healing for minor wounds will be complete after 5-7 days.
Even when they have been cleaned and covered, there is still a risk of infection with any open wound. Because of this, it is crucial to recognize the signs of infection and to act quickly or seek additional medical attention if you recognize these red flags.
Contact your doctor or primary care provider if you notice:
- persistent swelling
- redness in or around the wound
- an increase in pain or discomfort
- fluid drainage or pus-like discharge
- a wound that is unusually warm, or a wound that is accompanied by a fever over 101 degrees
When in doubt, it is always better to consult with a medical professional rather than to leave the wound unattended. The earlier a wound is addressed and properly treated, the better the outcome.
Wound Care at South Shore Health
The South Shore Health Center for Wound Healing is equipped to treat and care for patients with a wide variety of wounds and chronic wound conditions. Our multi-disciplinary team of wound care experts is dedicated to treating each patient as a whole. Our wound care physicians, nurses, and administrative staff members are dedicated to helping patients relieve pain, combat infection, manage chronic wound conditions, and to accelerate healing in order to improve quality of life.