Wash your wounds

We can't keep our wounds clean by licking them, like animals do. But, there are other options...

mother attending to daughter's injuryOur skin is the largest organ in the body. It protects us from infection, controls our body temperature, and gives us a presentable appearance. The breach in the skin is caused by wounds, burns and at times open fractures. Although the body heals the wounds by itself, we need to help the process by minimising the risk of infections. So, following good hygiene along with the treatment is imperative. Here’s what you need to do.

Handle with care

Often infections can be minimised or even prevented by following simple hygiene measures. Let me list a few:

  • Wash your hands before and after touching the injured area, preferably with an antiseptic soap or hand wash.
  • Immediately wash the area with an antiseptic.
  • Some wounds need to be covered; leaving them uncovered exposes them to harmful germs, aggravating the infection.
  • Minimise risk of secondary infections by using clean material. So ensure that the gloves, the cotton swabs or bandages you use on the wound are sterile. Dispose them off immediately in a hygienic manner.
  • Get immediate professional treatment in case an injury develops a fungal infection. In order to prevent the infection from spreading, wash your clothes separately, preferably in boiling water [you may also want to add anti-septic liquid to the water].
  • Don’t share the soap, towels, beddings or handkerchiefs with others, especially in case of open wounds.
  • Take utmost care even if you get the slightest of injury, if you are a diabetic. This is because diabetics often have loss of sensation and so are unable to feel the pain in case of an injury. This leads them to overlook the wound and increases the risk of serious infection, which takes time to heal.
  • If you have boils on any part of your body [especially on the face and breasts], consult a specialist immediately. Such abscesses, if not attended immediately, can severely damage the organ [face infections can travel to the brain, breasts can get destroyed by abscess]. Do not try to burst any abscess as the puss gets into the surrounding tissues and may form satellite abscess or septicaemia [blood infection].
  • Don’t touch or scratch an injury or wound constantly; it increases the risk of infecting the wound, and also the chance of the infection spreading to other parts.
  • Depending on the advice of your doctor, wash the wound every day and if it’s in a bandage, change the bandage frequently.

Be prepared

Timely first-aid can contain the damage to the wound. So, keep a first-aid box handy—at home, workplace, car or travel bag. The box should have bandages, some pain relievers, sterile dressing, sticking plaster, a pair of scissors and antibiotic ointments.

T V Garud
Dr T V Garud, FRCS [Eng], is a consultant general surgeon at Lilavati Hospital & Research Centre in Bandra, Mumbai


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