wound care

How do I clean and treat a wound?

Written by: WellCome Care Editorial Team

In a Nutshell

  • Wound care revolves around keeping the wound clean, dry, and sterilized
  • Watch out for any signs of infection (redness, swelling, pain, discharge)
  • Most minor wounds heal within 1-2 weeks with basic self-care

How to Treat Wounds

Cuts and scratches are part of our day to day life. We often get wounds or cuts due to accidents, falls or even while doing household chores (such as cutting vegetables etc.) It is extremely important to clean the wound immediately before applying a bandage to minimize the risk of infection.

Generally, minor cuts, wounds and scratches can easily be treated at home.

Treatment Regimen

If you have a simple wound, follow these tips to manage it at home.

  1. Clean the wound: The first step is to wash your wound or cut thoroughly with running water and soap to remove the dirt and debris. For minor cuts and scrapes, washing with simple clean water is fine. For more serious cuts or wounds, dab with normal saline solution or rubbing alcohol (although it may sting a bit). Avoid using strong solutions like antiseptics as they may damage the skin. Avoid cleaning your wound with cotton as cotton threads or fibers may get lodged in the open skin and may delay healing.
  2. Stop bleeding: Bleeding is generally not an issue in small scrapes or cuts. But if your wound is bleeding profusely, apply gentle but firm pressure on the cut with gauze or clean wash cloth. Maintain the pressure for 2 to 3 minutes or until bleeding stops. Usually the wounds on the hand or head may bleed more due to saturation of blood vessels in those areas.
  3. Use sterile bandage: Cover your clean wound with a sterile bandage or gauze pad to prevent contamination. Keeping the wound clean and covered minimizes the risk of infection. The bandage should be changed on daily basis.
  4. Apply petroleum jelly: Petroleum jelly is considered helpful in facilitating the healing of wounds after the scab is formed (usually after 2-3 days of initial injury). This is because petroleum jelly keeps the wound moist. Tube application is preferred over jars because jar may trap dirt and bacteria which is not good for wounds. Apply petroleum jelly until the wound heal completely.
  5. Take pain killers: Take over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen if your wound is painful.
  6. Tetanus shot: it is highly recommended to get a tetanus shot if you didn’t get any tetanus vaccination in the last five years and your wound is deep and/or caused by soiled, contaminated or rusty object.
  7. Watch out for any signs of infection: Seek immediate medical help if you notice any signs of infection like discharge, pain, swelling or redness near wound.

Generally minor cuts and wounds heals within one week, however, seek medical help if you notice that your wound is not healing adequately or if pain/ tenderness is increasing.

Nuances/ Safety

speak to a healthcare provider instead of managing it at home if any of the following conditions are met:

  • The wound is large/ deep
  • Located at or near the sensitive tissues such as eyes, eyelids, genitals, or other sensitive areas
  • If it is bleeding profusely
  • If wound is located near a major vessel or joint
  • If wound has a foreign body that is impacted or lodged
  • If wound is growing or has blood or push oozing from it.

Strength of Evidence: A

The recommendations presented in this article are based of consensus and best practices as suggested by National Health Service, UK and Medline Plus.

Our Ruling

Simple wounds can be managed at home with basic first aid that involves proper washing of wound to remove any dirt or debris. If skin is exposed, use rubbing alcohol to gently dab to minimize the risk of infection. Keep the wound dry and covered and once the scab is formed, apply Vaseline or petroleum jelly to keep the wound moist.

Our Sources:

  1. NHS - Wound care first-aid
  2. NHS - Treating cuts
  3. Medicine Net - Puncture and would care
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