Stop the Bleeding
The most important thing to do when confronted with an open wound is to control the bleeding. If you are not the victim, remember to follow the universal precautions and use personal protective gear such as A1 latex examination gloves, if available. Apply pressure to the wound until the bleeding stops before evaluating, cleaning and dressing the wound.
Evaluate the Wound
Generally wounds fall into two main categories namely: Closed wounds which do not break the skin but can be identified by bruising and swelling, and open wounds which include lacerations, incisions, punctures, avulsions and abrasions.
- Lacerations are simple breaks or tears in the skin.
- Incisions are surgical wounds, similar to lacerations but have smooth edges.
- Punctures are also similar to lacerations but are caused by objects moving in and out rather than tearing through the skin.
- Avulsions are torn sections of skin, either flaps or missing completely.
- Abrasions are scrapes or scratches, similar to avulsions but not as deep.
- When you have determined how severe the wound is, decide on a course of action. You should consider visiting a doctor for 1.5 cm lacerations or incisions with visible fat, bone or muscle, blood spurting or uncontrollable bleeding, deep puncture wounds or if dirt remains in the wound. Animal and human bites should also be cared for by a doctor.
- A serious complication that can result from wounds or bites is tetanus. Tetanus, commonly called lockjaw, is a serious condition that causes jaw spasms and possibly death. If the injured person has not had a tetanus vaccination in the last 5 years you should consult a doctor.
Clean the Wound
Your skin covers and protects your body against bacterial and viral infections but becomes susceptible when broken. Carefully and gently clean the wound with a mild liquid soap to help prevent infections. You don’t need antibacterial soap, an all-natural liquid soap or saline solution is easier on tender skin. Rinse the wound with clean water and dry with cotton wool swabs or gauze pads. If the bleeding returns it should be minor, apply pressure again with the gauze until the bleeding stops.
Protect the Wound from Infection
Once the wound is cleaned you need to protect the wound from infections. Antibiotic ointments can cause bacterial resistance, inflammation from allergens and contact dermatitis. Instead use an antiseptic cream, gel or solution, apply it with cotton wool swabs and dry the excess antiseptic from around the wound area.
Dress the Wound
Once the bleeding has been controlled and the wound is clean you need to make sure it stays clean. Small lacerations, incisions and avulsions may require butterfly closures in place of surgical sutures to pull the skin on either side of the wound together. Use clean sterile dressing such as plasters or gauze to cover superficial wounds that are not deep enough to see subcutaneous (fatty) tissue. Lightly cover the butterfly closure, plaster or gauze with a bandage or adhesive dressing if required. This will absorb fluids, protect the wound from infections and allow optimal healing time.
Practice Good Wound Care Maintenance
Most antiseptic protection against bacteria lasts from 5 to 12 hours, so it is essential to periodically clean the wound. Gently remove the dressing and inspect the wound for infection. These are signs you should consult a doctor:
- Tenderness or inflammation around the wound.
- Cloudy or yellow/green colored drainage from the wound.
- Swelling around the wound.
- Numbness around the wound.
- Red streaks around the wound.
Boost the Immune System
A strong immune system helps keep your body and wounds infection free. A natural way to boost your immune system and the body’s capacity to deal with infections and wound repair is to eat and drink fermented foodstuffs, such as probiotic liquids and cultured foods.
There is no need to panic if you have a basic understanding of adequate wound care, you can take care of most cuts, scrapes and bumps that are part of life. However, it is still important to identify when you require medical help and consult with a medical professional. Your body has an amazing ability to heal but it is always good to help where you can. Cleanliness is important in wound care, so remember to wash your hands before and after the treatment of any wound to prevent the spread of bacteria or infections.
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