Kiss It and Make It Better: When a Bandage Is Enough for Woundcare
Dec 3, 2012 -
Scraped knees, paper cuts and other minor wounds are just part of life—especially if you have kids. But once you get through the initial wound cleanup, it is sometimes hard to tell whether a bandage will do, or if a cut or wound needs more attention.
It’s easy to think that smearing on some ointment, slapping on a bandage and kissing it better is the best way to care for cuts, but not always, says the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). According to their experts, the best wound care starts with covering all breaks in the skin to protect against infection.
Of course, the first step is cleaning the wound with soap and cool water. If it's bleeding, apply pressure to it with a clean piece of cloth or gauze, and elevate it above the heart.
Surprisingly enough, the AAFP says skip the cream. Exposure to fresh air is part of effective wound treatment and the quickest way to allow minor wounds to heal, so it is generally best not to apply creams or ointments, because they keep the wound moist. Never apply a cream or ointment to a burn without checking with your health care provider first.
A Clean Bandage Is Key to Good Woundcare
Did you know it’s best to change those bandages twice a day? At bedtime, the bandage should be replaced with a looser dressing so air can circulate around the wound. Upon waking, a slightly tighter bandage should be applied, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.
Even if a scab is formed and you are worried about ripping it off, the recommendation is to go ahead and change it. Just try to keep the wounded area dry, and tend to any area that may bleed after a scab is removed.
Deep Wounds: When a Bandage Just Won’t Cut It
So what happens when you clean a wound, apply pressure, and the bleeding just won’t stop? It’s time to take a look at the wound and assess the depth of the damage. If bright red blood is spurting out at intervals linked to your heartbeat, you are bleeding from an artery. This is serious and needs immediate medical attention to stop the bleeding. Hold direct pressure and go to the nearest urgent care facility or emergency department.
“Stitches are sometimes the hardest call to make. But I tell my patients, when in doubt, just head to the doctor. It’s better to come home with no stitches than to miss the window and have bigger problems down the road,” says Dr. Robert Carroll, , Chair of Emergency Medicine & Senior Medical Director at ECHN.
Any wound that is on the face, jagged, very dirty, becomes tender or red, develops pus, or is accompanied by a fever or the appearance of red lines emanating from the injured area is infected and must be treated by a doctor. A doctor should also see any human or animal bite, as antibiotics are necessary.
Stitches, Puncture Wounds and Other Reasons to Head to the Doctor
Sometimes it is just too hard to tell when stitches are needed. While there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule that works every time, if it’s deep or you’re uncertain, go to a doctor because time is of the essence. If stitches are required, the job must be done in a timely manner.
If a wound is very dirty, or if you fall on gravel or wood splinters, you should go to a doctor to have it cleaned. The alternative may be long-term infection and serious complications if even a sliver of a foreign object remains in the body. Make sure your tetanus vaccination is up to date.
Also, puncture wounds can push particles of dirt deep into the body. If you haven't had a tetanus shot in five years, get one if you have suffered a puncture wound or a scrape or cut from any item that is dirty.
Finding Treatment for Wounds
When you’re looking for treatment in Eastern Connecticut, ECHN is proud to offer our Urgent Care in South Windsor or our Emergency Departments in Manchester and Rockville. They are fully equipped and staffed to address all your immediate wound care needs.
Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Last Annual Review Date: 2/23/2012
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