Safety and caution can usually help prevent injury, but sometimes that’s not enough and we get injured anyway. When our skin gets ripped, sliced, torn or cut; we’re dealing with open wounds. Knowing how to clean a wound is very much one of the things that have been instrumental in the establishment and continued success of civilization. Everyone gets injuries or cuts eventually, and knowing how to clean any lacerations can literally save an organism’s life from infection and disease.
Wounds to our skin can be painful and dangerous. Without proper attention, cleaning and care; an untreated wound can become infected with harmful agents. Humans only have a couple of openings, and even these are usually well guarded against disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Everything else in our body is protected by a layer of living tissue which we call skin, and if this skin is breached it must become another front on which our immune systems need to fight infection. Other than the benefit of closing a wound so that it can heal, the primary reason for treating and cleaning an opening in the skin is to prevent it from becoming infected.
While this article likely won’t help you avoid wounds, it will help determine a course of action if and when you do. Take these steps for yourself or in the treatment of others:
- Sterilize your hands or anything else that will be coming into contact with a wound. Wash up or put on protective gloves.
- Stop any bleeding. While blood is supposed to clot naturally, it may need your help. Apply gentle pressure with a clean bandage or cloth and elevate the wound if possible.
- Clean the wound. Use sterile water, alcohol or soap along with tweezers or cloth to clear the opening of any foreign particles or debris. While this may cause irritation, it is infinitely better than getting tetanus or any other infection from something you failed to remove from a wound.
- Apply any antibiotic, anti-fungal or anti-viral cream or ointment you can get your hands on. While everyone’s skin may react differently to different products, using them at this stage can kill off any remaining harmful agents which may have been contracted.
- Cover the wound with sterile bandages. This will keep the wound from being exposed to the elements and bacteria while it is still fresh. A covered would will be able to start healing, but eventually any wound will need air.
- Redress and change bandages on a daily basis, repeating steps 4 and 5. Also redress wounds anytime bandaging has become wet or dirty.
- Continue until the wound starts to close, or appears to be confined to the surface. The body will heal itself, and in order to finish repairing skin the wound needs to be exposed to air. When the wound appears to be healed to a point where it is no longer raw and open; refrain from bandaging and let it breathe.
Always keep an eye out for infection in the aftermath of any wound treatment. You may need to continue application of topical antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-viral ointments. If an infection takes hold inside the body, further measures will be required by a doctor.
For extreme wounds where a puncture is deep enough to reveal layers of muscle or fat; seek professional medical attention immediately. Close it up and keep some pressure on the wound until someone qualified can look at it. If nobody more qualified is available, you need to close the wound as soon as possible in order to stop bleeding. The sooner a wound is closed, the less chance it has of becoming infected. If it can be cleaned, do so and close it accordingly. Deep wounds with relatively small openings can be closed with adhesive tape, or even superglue in a pinch. Larger wounds may require more drastic measures to keep that much skin together; you will likely need stitches. A stitched wound should be treated and bandaged just like any other open wound that has been sustained. We can teach you more about stitching wounds here.