Wound care

Family Health Diary

We all have bacteria growing all over our skin. The skin is the first line of protection to keep the bacteria out of our bodies. When you get a cut or graze bugs can get into the wound.

Doctors will tell you that all wounds will have bacteria in them but that doesn’t mean they are infected. Another confusing aspect is that the healing process for a cut or a wound involves some redness, swelling and warmth. This does not mean that the wound is necessarily infected. Usually, it is fine to treat minor cuts and wounds at home.

How to treat minor cuts and wounds at home and when to see a doctor:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water so you don’t introduce an infection into the wound.
  • Minor cuts usually stop bleeding by themselves. If they don’t stop bleeding, apply gentle pressure to the wound. If it won’t stop bleeding or if the wound is spurting blood; take the person to a doctor immediately; even if this means going to an after-hours clinic.
  • Rinse the wound under running water or with sterile saline. Saline ampoules are in most first aid kits and can be purchased at the pharmacy.
  • If there are still bits stuck in the wound that you can’t get out, it is best to take the person to the doctor.
  • If it is a deep or dirty wound and you have not had a tetanus injection in the last 5yrs then go to the doctor.
  • The old fashioned idea of getting the wound to ‘dry out’ is now known to reduce healing, increase pain and scarring. For a tiny scratch or cut, use a normal sticking plaster. For larger or more serious wound or a small burn, use a modern dressing that will keep the wound moist. This helps the healing process.
  • Covering the wound prevents dirt getting in and can stop it from opening up again. It also helps to keep the skin at the same temperature so that your body can grow new skin and heal.
  • Do not cover a wound that is still dirty or looks infected – go to the doctor.
  • Only change the dressing when it becomes dirty or wet. Leaving the same dressing on for a day or two helps the skin to heal more quickly. Some modern dressings can be left in place for several days.
  • If the wound does not appear to be healing or if you think it has become infected then visit your usual doctor. Signs of infection include increased pain or fever.

The ideal wound dressing will:

  • keep the wound moist so it will heal
  • absorb what seeps out of the wound as it heals
  • allow air to get through the dressing but not bacteria
  • be comfortable to wear (move with the body)
  • not cause harm or discomfort when it is removed
  • protect the area from any further trauma.

Modern wound dressings are available in most pharmacies. It is good to keep a few individually wrapped sterile dressings and some sterile saline ampoules in your home first aid kit – just in case.

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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