Even being extra careful, you can't always avoid the scrapes and cuts of life. But you can learn how to care for them and speed their healing with these home remedies:
Stop the bleeding. When you get a cut or scrape, the first thing to do (after admonishing yourself for being so clumsy) is to stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the area with a clean cloth or tissue. If possible, elevate the wound above the heart to slow the blood flow. Don't use a tourniquet, which cuts off circulation.
Wash up. One of the most important things you can do in treating a cut or scrape is to clean it thoroughly with soap and water or an over-the-counter cleanser, such as Hibiclens, that doesn't sting. If the wound is really dirty, pour hydrogen peroxide onto it; as it bubbles, it will lift out debris. But apply it carefully, because hydrogen peroxide can damage surrounding skin. A wound that is too deep or dirty for you to clean thoroughly requires medical attention as soon as possible.
Bring on the antibacterial ointment. Antibacterial ointments and solutions can be very helpful. Polysporin, Neosporin, and Bactine are examples of such products available without a prescription. Polysporin is a good choice for people with sensitive skin, because it contains fewer ingredients that may cause allergic reactions.
Clean with iodine. Many people use a tincture of iodine or povidone-iodine for minor cuts and bruises. Iodine kills bacteria and viruses effectively.
Close the skin. Properly closing the skin is important in cuts that are 1/8- to 1/4-inch wide. (A cut wider than a quarter-inch or with edges that are too ragged to be closed evenly requires prompt medical attention, as stitches may be necessary.) Closing makes the cut heal faster and reduces the chances of scarring. Be sure that you have thoroughly cleaned the cut before attempting to close it. Try to line up the edges of the cut, then apply butterfly strips or a standard adhesive bandage to keep the cut closed.
Cover it. Covering a wound protects it and keeps it clean. Instead of covering with plain gauze, which tends to stick to wounds, use Telfa, a coated, gauze-type bandage. Adhesive bandages often have Telfa on them, but you can also buy larger pieces of Telfa in the pharmacy and cut them to fit. Cover the wound with the Telfa pad, and use adhesive tape to hold the pad in place. Don't cover it too tightly, however, because a bit of air circulation actually facilitates healing.
Keep it clean. To prevent infection, remove the bandage and wash the wound every day with soap and water. Then apply a clean bandage.
Don't let it dry out. By keeping a wound moist (covering it generally accomplishes this, as does applying an antibacterial ointment), you help prevent cracking, speed healing, and reduce the chance of scarring.
Lick your wounds. If you don't have immediate access to soap and water, licking may help remove surface contaminants--saliva has certain antibacterial agents. Saliva, however, also contains a wide variety of bacteria that actually can cause infection if introduced into an open wound. Be sure to follow up with a soap and water washing as soon as possible.
If a scab forms, don't pick at it. This disrupts the skin and can introduce bacteria. Instead, soak crusty scabs with a solution of one tablespoon white vinegar to one pint of water; the mildly acidic solution is soothing and helps kill bacteria.
At night, keep the wound moist with a water/petrolatum regimen. Wash the wound thoroughly, then cover it with a little petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) to seal in the moisture.
Don't get locked up. Consider having a tetanus shot within 72 hours if you haven't had one in the last five years. Tetanus bacteria causes "lockjaw," a condition that can cause stiffness in the jaw and other joints, paralysis, and even death.
Protect it from sunlight. To avoid the skin darkening that often occurs when a cut or scrape heals, avoid sun exposure during the healing process and apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone to the wound. Also, for several weeks, be extra diligent about applying a good sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) to areas where you've had a wound.
These practical solutions are often all the medicine you need for minor cuts and scrapes. If you need some extra help healing, however, you can find help right in your very own kitchen. Go to the next page to read about natural healing remedies for cuts and scrapes.
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