MANAGING WOUNDS AT HOME: TIPS FOR PROPER WOUND CARE, HEALING, AND PREVENTION
Wounds are inevitable in life. Whether you cut yourself while cooking, scrape your knee while playing, or burn your hand while ironing, you are bound to experience some minor injuries from time to time. While most of these wounds are not serious and can heal on their own, it is important to know how to manage them properly at home to prevent infection, promote healing, and avoid complications.
In this blog, we will discuss how to manage your own wounds at home, what are the signs of infection, essential self-care tips for wound healing, and when to seek professional help. We will also answer some common questions that you may have about wound healing, such as why do wounds itch and throb and how to prevent scarring.
How to Clean a Wound
The first step in wound care is to act as soon as possible. There are four phases of wound healing: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and maturation. Cleaning the wound swiftly helps it to get through the first and second phases with the best possible results, preventing infections and speeding up the healing process.
1. Choose an Appropriate Dressing
A dressing covers the wound and protects it from further injury or infection. Dressings can also help keep the wound moist and promote healing by creating a favorable environment for tissue growth and repair.
There are various types of dressings available for different types of wounds, with the most common ones being:
- Adhesive Bandages. Also called band-aids, these are simple bandages that stick to your skin and cover small cuts or scrapes. They are easy to apply and remove and can help prevent infections and scarring.
- Gauze Dressings help to absorb blood or fluid from a larger wound. They can also help cushion the wound and prevent friction. However, they may stick to the wound and cause pain or bleeding when removed.
- Hydrocolloid Dressings. These gel-like dressings form a seal over the wound, keeping it moist and protected from bacteria. They help speed up healing and can reduce scarring. Some people may suffer allergic reactions or skin irritation when using them.
- Hydrogel Dressings are water-based, providing moisture and cooling to the wound. They soothe pain and promote healing. As they may wash away, they are not suitable for wounds with heavy bleeding.
- Alginate dressings are made from seaweed and are designed to absorb large amounts of blood or fluid from a wound. They can stop bleeding and prevent infection, yet may need frequent changing due to their high moisture content.
The selection of the right dressing depends on several factors, such as the type, size, location, and severity of your wound, the amount of blood or fluid that it produces, and your personal preference. You should consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice on the best dressing for your wound.
2. Gather Your Supplies
Before you start treating your wound, you need to gather some basic supplies for wound care at home. To clean a wound, you will need:
- Soap and water
- A clean towel or washcloth
- Tweezers (sterilized with alcohol)
- Antiseptic solution (optional)
- Band-aid, bandage or dressing
3. Cleanse the Wound Properly
Follow these steps to clean a wound:
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Rinse the wound with cool or lukewarm water to remove any dirt or debris. You can also use a soft washcloth to gently scrub the wound. Do not use hot water, as it may damage the skin.
- If there are any pebbles or splinters in the wound, use tweezers to remove them carefully. Do not try to remove large or deep objects by yourself, as they may cause more damage or bleeding. Seek medical help in this case.
- If you have an antiseptic solution, such as iodine or hydrogen peroxide, you can apply it to the wound with a cotton ball or swab. This may help kill germs and prevent infection. However, some antiseptics may irritate the skin or slow down healing, so use them sparingly and only if necessary.
- Pat the wound dry with a clean towel or washcloth.
- Apply a thin layer of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly to the wound. This will help keep the wound moist and prevent it from sticking to the bandage.
- Cover the wound with a sterile bandage or dressing that fits the size and shape of the wound. Change the bandage at least once a day or whenever it becomes wet or dirty.
- Seek medical advice regarding a prophylactic tetanus injection if the injury has broken your skin, increasing the risk of tetanus.
Emergency Wound Care
If the wound is bleeding heavily, do not try to clean it too much or remove a large embedded object. Call emergency services immediately. Use gloves and remove clothing or external debris from the wound before plugging it with a sterile gauze pad, towel, shirt or other large cloth. You can apply pressure and wrap the wound in a bandage with a cloth or towel placed against the wound. This should stop the wound from bleeding excessively until emergency medical services arrive to take over.
How to Care for a Wound
After cleaning the wound, you need to take care of it until it heals completely. After the wound stops bleeding and a clot has formed, it will be tender, swollen, warm and inflamed, as per the second stage of wound healing. This typically lasts for 3 days and is followed by the third stage, proliferation. In this wound-healing phase, a scab forms over the top, while underneath, the skin begins to mend itself properly.
Follow these steps to properly care for a wound:
- Keep the wound clean and dry. Change the bandage or dressing every day or as directed by your doctor. Wash your hands before and after touching the wound.
- Avoid touching, picking, or scratching the wound or scab, as this may cause infection or scarring.
- If the wound is painful, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, according to the label instructions. Do not apply ice or heat to the wound, as this may interfere with healing.
- If the wound is exposed to sunlight, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect it from sun damage and scarring.
- Monitor the wound for signs of healing and infection.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Speed Up Wound Healing
Besides proper wound care, you can also promote faster wound healing with healthy lifestyle choices that support your body’s natural ability to regenerate. The most important aspects to focus on are:
Keeping Stable Blood Sugar Levels. Excessive or erratic blood sugar levels can detract from wound healing and enhance scar formation by reducing blood flow, exaggerating blood clots, and lending itself to vascular inflammation. It is best to avoid smoking and consumption of foods that may spike blood sugar levels.
Eating a Balanced Diet. A balanced diet that emphasizes protein, minerals and vitamins can provide your body with all the right nutrients for speedy regeneration. The best vitamins for wound healing include vitamin A and vitamin C, both of which lower inflammation and help to boost complementary aspects of immune function and skin regeneration.
Staying Hydrated. Adequate fluid intake is important for transporting oxygen and nutrients to your cells and excreting waste products from your body. It also helps keep your skin moist and elastic. You should drink enough water or fluids (such as juice, milk, soup, or tea) to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
Why Do Wounds Itch?
Itching is a normal sign of wound healing and shows you have entered the third stage. You can see it as an indication that new skin cells are growing and nerves are repairing. However, scratching your wound can damage the new tissue and lead to infection or scarring.
To relieve itching, you can try the following:
- Apply a moisturizer to reduce dryness and cracking of the skin.
- Try taking an oral antihistamine (such as Benadryl) or applying a topical antihistamine (such as Calamine).
- Numb the wound with a cold compress.
- Avoid contact with substances that may irritate your wound, such as soap, detergent, perfume, or alcohol.
- Distract yourself.
Why is My Healing Wound Throbbing?
A wound may throb or feel warm during the healing process. This is normal and shows that your body is fighting germs or bacteria and repairing the damaged tissue. However, if the throbbing persists for more than a few days or becomes more intense, it may be a sign of infection.
Recognizing Signs of Wound Infection
Some wounds can become infected despite proper care. Infection can delay healing and cause unpleasant symptoms, such as fever, swelling, pus, redness, warmth, tenderness, or increased pain around the wound.
Other signs of infection include:
- Skin redness that spreads out from the wound
- Green or yellow fluid coming out of the wound
- Foul odor from the wound
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpit, or groin
- Body aches, chills, or fever
If you notice any of these signs of infection, you should seek medical help immediately.
How to Prevent a Wound from Scarring
Another common complication of wound healing is scarring. Scarring is the result of your body’s natural response to heal itself after an injury. It occurs when your body produces excess collagen (a protein that gives strength and structure to your skin) to fill in the gap left by the wound. Scars can vary in size, shape, color, and texture depending on several factors, such as the type, depth, location, and severity of your wound, your age, skin type, genetics, and lifestyle.
While scars are inevitable and permanent, cleansing and dressing a wound properly can help to prevent their formation. A few other precautions you can take to prevent excessive scarring and promote skin regeneration include:
- Moisturize. Keeping the wound moist can prevent excessive scabbing, which contributes to scarring by pulling on the edges of the wound and building tension on the skin. Extra skin hydration can also help soften and flatten the scar.
- Apply a Silicone Gel or Sheets. Silicone gel or sheets are bandage accessories that can help prevent and improve scarring. They create a protective barrier over the wound, maintaining both moisture and temperature. Silicone gel or sheets can also help reduce itching, pain, redness, and stiffness associated with scars.
- Massage the Scar. Massaging the scar can help improve blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the wound and scar tissue. It can also help break down excess collagen and soften and flatten scars by stretching the skin and improving its elasticity.
- Use a Natural Anti-Scarring Agent. Some studies suggest that after the first couple of days of the wound healing process, natural anti-inflammatory herbs and substances may help to reduce inflammation and scarring. These include honey, certain natural essential oils, like lavender or frankincense, green tea flavonoids, and resveratrol from grapefruit seed oil, grape seed oil, and other herbal teas. Used topically, these may help prevent scarring by lowering inflammation and keeping the wound moist and sterile.
When to Seek Professional Help
Some wounds are too serious to be treated at home and need professional medical attention. You should seek professional help if the wound:
- Is deep, large, jagged, or has exposed bones or tendons.
- Was caused by an animal or human bite, a rusted nail, or a dirty object.
- Is on your face, genitals, joints, hands, feet, or near your eyes.
- Keeps bleeding even after applying pressure for 10 minutes.
- Shows signs of infection.
It is also important to consult with a doctor about a serious wound if you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, or a chronic medical condition that may affect wound healing. A doctor can help you to clarify any questions or concerns about your wound or wound care, as well as recommend the best possible treatment options for those with chronic ailments that get in the way.
Wounds are common injuries that affect everyone. Most wounds can be managed at home with proper cleaning and care. However, some wounds may need medical attention to prevent infection and complications. By following the above tips, you can help your wounds heal faster and better.
-  https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-severe-bleeding/basics/art-20056661
-  https://cert.vohrawoundcare.com/how-to-tell-if-a-wound-is-healing-or-infected/
-  https://burnstrauma.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41038-016-0040-1
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