Even the smallest wounds need care
No matter the size of a wound, it is important for the healing process that the wound is well treated and controlled. During any healing process the goal should be to heal the wound as quickly as possible because even the smallest wounds can lead to an infection. An infection can lead to other complications depending on the length of the already ongoing infection. Therefore, it is essential during any wound treatment, to thoroughly wash the wound.
The most common symptoms for infected wounds are redness, swelling, increased heat and more pain than before in the wound. Also, loading pain is common. When the supply of vessels is impaired, a wound becomes infected easier. Vascular supply is weakened when there still is material in the wound such as dirt or if swelling occurs because fluid is accumulated in the tissues (edema). If these symptoms do not disappear after a few days, grow worse or if fever occurs you should contact a health center.
The healing process
In order for a wound’s healing process to be as good as possible, it is important to firstly clean the wound thoroughly. Use mild water and liquid soap. The healing process of a wound can be put into three stages. These stages are approximately the same regardless of the origin of the wound.
The first phase is ongoing for two to four days. The first symptoms occur; the damaged tissue becomes red, sore and swollen. Wound secretion is also common. White blood cells get to the injured area, while the blood vessels expand.
The second phase in the healing process can last much longer than the first. Depending on the size of the wound the second phase can last from several days to several weeks. During this phase the white blood cells repair the damaged tissue. Cells from the skin multiply themselves in order to grow over the injured tissue. New blood vessels also grow into the new tissue.
The third and final phase is the process that takes the longest. It can last from several months to a couple of years depending on the size of the wound. During this phase the new tissue is strengthened. The area or scar where the wound once was begins to fade. This occurs when blood vessels, which are no longer needed, disappear.
In order to facilitate healing and minimize the risk of scarring, it is important that the wound heals well, is cleaned regularly and thoroughly. If the symptoms do not disappear after a few days of treatment or if the wounds symptoms worsen a physician should be contacted in order to give a more thorough examination.
Individuals with certain diseases like diabetes have an impaired wound healing process. Also individuals with poor nutrition, elderly or smokers have skin with a more difficult healing process. Smokers do not transport the necessary amount of oxygen and nutrients to the damaged cells in order to achieve a normal healing process.
Primary for all types of wound care is to wash the wound thoroughly and protect it from dirt or contact with clothing and other items that can cause chafing or infection. In general, one can take care of small wounds at home. However, it is important to observe the symptoms in order to give the wound the proper treatment and if necessary contact a physician.
Keep the wound clean
Begin with washing your hands so that no dirt can get in contact with the wound. Then wash around the wound and work your way inwards. Use a mild liquid soap and lukewarm water, preferably directly from the shower beam. The beam facilitates the removal of dirt. Different types of small wounds are usually all dirty. Therefore, it is important to check that all dirt is removed. If you have problems removing the dirt one can use tweezers, a soft brush or damp gauze pad to remove the last of the dirt. A second alternative is to place the wound in soaking using a soaked pad or by dipping the wound in a water bath.
Let the wound air dry for a while. If possible you can let minor chafing and scrape wounds be without any gauze or patch. Use the size of the wound as a reference in order to determine if you should use a patch or larger gauze. Make sure clothes do not rub against the wound and form chafing.
Bandages or patches should be changed if they get dirty or wet to avoid getting bacteria or dirt in the wound. However, it should not be changed unnecessarily as this process can delay the healing of the wound. When replacing a patch or bandage check the wound for symptoms so it has not become infected. See if swelling, oozing, an odor is present and if the wound has become more red than before or hurts. If any symptoms for an infected wound are present you should start with treating the wound at home by washing it thoroughly three times a day for a few days. If the symptoms haven’t disappeared after a few days or if fever has generated you should contact a physician.
Samples from the wound
When contacting a physician a sample from the wound is normally made to ensure the right form of bacteria causing the infection. By doing this sample the right form of treatment can be determined.
Before a sample can be taken from the wound it has to be cleaned thoroughly. Normally regular tap water is used and crusts and dead cell tissue is removed. A sample is not taken from the upper surface of the skin in the wound because this part is usually pre-mixed with other bacteria from the individual’s own normal flora, making it difficult to ascertain the bacteria deriving the infection. Best result is obtained when the sample is taken from the area between the diseased and healthy tissue, usually with the help of a cotton swab. If you have a deep wound a syringe is used instead to collect the fluid.
When treating infected wounds, if possible, bandages and pads should be used to reduce the amount of bacteria instead of using antibiotics. The Swedish Medical Products Agency writes in Läkemedelsboken 2011-2012 that one should primarily abstain from using antibiotics to treat wounds. The agency has specified that this involves both local and oral intake of antibiotics. By avoiding antibiotics in unnecessary situations one can reduce the risk of developing resistance. Gram negative bacteria which arise during deep wound infections have a greater resistance to antibiotics compared to the gram positive bacteria’s contained in the normal flora.
When to seek care
Small cuts and wounds can be taken care of at home, without leading to serious infections. However, in certain situations and with specific symptoms, it is more advisable to consult a medical center.
Contact your physician if you have:
• Bite wounds from animals or large bite wounds from a human.
• Wounds that need stitches. After 8 hours, wounds are not stitched together because of the risk of infection. This usually causes scars.
• Wounds that will not stop bleeding after a half-hour.
• Feeling numb areas around the wound
• Swelling and large contusions that make a lot of pain.
• Puncture wounds deeper than one cm.
• Signs of wound infection.
• Cut wounds that gap or wounds longer than a few cm.
Page edited 2016-01-07.