Have you ever gotten creative when applying a small adhesive bandage? It can be challenging to figure out how to cover one of your finger joints, while still being able to use your finger. Whether it’s the end of a finger or over a joint, you’ll discover several hacks you can use with a one sized bandage in this short video.
Many times, you won’t have the right size or configuration of the bandage you need when you get a cut or abrasion. In other cases, replacing your bandage each time it gets wet means you’ll go through every specially configured dressing in the box for the cut over your finger joint before it heals.
However, going without a covering before your cut has scabbed may also not be a good idea. As the number of antibiotic resistant infections continues to rise, it is crucial you don’t overlook the little cuts and abrasions but treat them when they happen. Vegetables, raw chicken, bathrooms and even your cell phone can be a source of infection.
Dressings Create a Barrier Against Dirt
Your skin provides a barrier against infection, protecting your body from an invasion of pathogens. When the barrier is broken, it increases your risk of getting a local or systemic infection.1 If your skin can’t provide a barrier against the environment, then dressings may be used to provide a barrier against pathogens and promote healing.2
However, while it may appear putting on one dressing is all that’s needed, when a bandage gets wet it becomes a prime area for breeding bacteria and other pathogens. As this wet dressing is pressed up against your skin, even if the cut has scabbed or closed, it may increase your risk of a local infection.
Have you noticed your skin begins to wrinkle if you stay in the pool or bathtub for a long time? The same thing happens on a small scale when you keep a wet dressing against your skin. The skin then begins to breakdown, called maceration. This allows bacteria to enter, increasing your risk of infection. It is important to change your dressing any time it gets wet.
Clean the Wound First, Then Cover It
Getting cuts and scrapes is common. The openings in the skin create an opportunity for bacterial growth so initial cleaning is crucial to help flush out unwanted pathogens and help the area heal. Before covering a cut or scrape with a dressing, start with cleaning the cut. Some prefer soap and water while others reach for the bottle of hydrogen peroxide, but which is best?
Hydrogen peroxide is effective at killing microorganisms and much safer and more effective than using isopropyl alcohol. It works by breaking the cell membranes in the bacteria. As it reacts with an enzyme inside the bacteria called catalase, you’ll see fizzing from the hydrogen peroxide reaction and release of an oxygen molecule.
Although it is a good antiseptic, it cannot distinguish between healthy cells and bacterial cells in your wound. Thus, the peroxide also breaks down healthy cell membranes and produces the same fizzing. Most clinicians do not recommend using an antiseptic solution of any kind as it destroys healthy cells and may slow the healing process, as well as increase the risk of scar tissue formation.
Instead, the best way to clean a cut is to use a safe mild soap free of triclosan, triclocarban or fragrance with plenty of water. Before washing out a cut or scrape, wash your hands first to reduce the potential for transferring bacteria to the wound. You may find a cut or abrasion will bleed as you’re cleaning it.
Apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding after you’re finished cleaning and elevate it above the level of your heart if able. This helps to reduce the amount of blood delivered to the area and helps to stop the bleeding. Cool water may feel better to you than warm, but either is acceptable.
If you have a sprayer on your kitchen sink, try using it to help clean the wound out while rinsing for five to 10 minutes. This helps remove dirt and debris from the area.
Once the cut has been flushed out, use mild pressure with a clean washcloth or a piece of gauze and mild soap. Scrubbing the area with an abrasive material or hard pressure may disrupt healthy tissue and prolong healing time.
Tips to Speed Healing of Cuts and Scrapes
Once you’ve cleaned the area and the bleeding has stopped, there are several ways you can improve the speed at which your wound heals and reduce the potential of getting a scar.
• Honey — Honey was used to fight infection until the early 20th century. However, the grade-A processed honey at the grocery store is typically high-fructose syrup and may increase your risk of infection. Instead, use raw Manuka honey produced by bees foraging on Manuka flowers. It may be more effective than antibiotics against some forms of bacteria.
• Coconut Oil — Virgin coconut oil has dual benefits of keeping your skin moist and improving your fibroblast proliferation and wound healing. Use only virgin coconut oil on the area twice daily.
• DuoDERM — DuoDERM is a brand of hydrocolloid dressing to protect the wound from bacteria. It keeps the area moist to improve healing time without producing skin maceration. They also reduce pain in the area while providing a protective covering.
• Avoid smoking — Wound healing requires good blood supply and smoking reduces blood supply to your skin through vasoconstriction, and smoking reduces your absorption of vitamin A, necessary for skin health and healing.
• Nutrition —There are several choices described below you may make each day to improve healing time and overall health.
Beta-carotene or vitamin A — Foods high in vitamin A or beta-carotene are often orange-colored, such as sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash. Do not take a vitamin A supplement if you are pregnant, nursing or trying to get pregnant.
Vitamin C — Your body uses it to make collagen and form new tissue. It is water-soluble. You can take up to 3,000 milligrams (mg) per day. Reduce the amount if you develop diarrhea.
Vitamin C interacts with some medications including chemotherapy, estrogen, warfarin and others. Check with your pharmacist for known interactions if you are taking medication. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, broccoli and berries.
Zinc — Stimulates wound healing and can be used as a short-term oral supplement in zinc lozenges. Foods high in zinc include pumpkin seeds, oysters, veal, beef, cashews and mushrooms.
B-Complex vitamins — May speed wound healing and improve skin health. Foods high in many of the B vitamins include spinach, broccoli, calf’s liver, lentils, parsley and bell peppers.
Bromelain — An enzyme found in pineapple may reduce swelling, bruising and improve healing time.
L-arginine — Has been used post-surgically to improve healing. Foods high in arginine include dark chocolate, chicken, beef, lamb, milk and cheese.
Consider Bentonite Clay to Prevent Infection
Cuts and scrapes are so common that in a one-year study in Great Britain, researchers discovered individuals would have at least one cut, ache, sprain or other minor ailment at any given time. If it was not present, something was highly likely to occur in the following three days.
The data suggested citizens would suffer 9,672 ailments over the course of a 78-year lifespan. Each open cut represents an opportunity for pathogens to invade the body. In one study, data demonstrated the effectiveness of blue clay against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli (E.coli), including strains demonstrating carbapenem resistance and methicillin resistance.
Carbapenem is a class of drugs often reserved for severe infections or as a last line antibiotic. The researchers found when natural antibacterial clay was topically applied it could kill pathogens. Bentonite clay, also known as Montmorillonite, is found in large deposits near Fort Benton, Montana. It can be purchased for use internally and externally.
However, it is important to keep the clay from contacting anything metal as it reduces the effectiveness of the product. Therefore, it’s important to mix it in a glass jar with a plastic lid or use a plastic whisk to mix the contents. Be sure to get it from a reliable, quality source as some contain lead.
For instance, in 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers not to purchase “Best Bentonite Clay” from a company in Guthrie, Oklahoma, as elevated levels of lead posing a risk of poisoning had been found in the products.
More Benefits and Uses for Bentonite Clay
When purchasing bentonite clay, it’s important to recognize there are forms sold for internal and external use. For instance, sodium bentonite is often used for industrial products and expands quickly when it absorbs liquid. This can be a problem if it swells in your stomach or intestines.
Calcium bentonite has a lower sodium content, and it doesn’t swell as much, which makes it safer to take internally. When using it internally, be sure to drink water until your urine is a light straw color each time you use the bathroom. This will reduce the potential for becoming constipated.
Bentonite clay has been used internally to help with digestion and detoxification as it attracts bacteria, pesticides and heavy metals. It may also be added to homemade toothpaste or mixed with water as a mouth rinse to help remove toxins from your oral cavity and calcify and whiten your teeth.
The clay also has unique external uses including as an underarm detoxifier and deodorant. It can be applied with a face brush on your armpits as your only natural deodorant. It can also be made into a paste with clean pure water by mixing it in a glass jar with a non-metal spoon.
This may be applied to skin irritations such as insect bites cuts or burns. Leave it on until it dries and then wash it off. It may also help reduce itching from eczema, psoriasis and chickenpox.
Recognize an Infection and Know This Treatment
Although not common, every cut or abrasion offers the opportunity for pathogens to enter the body and trigger sepsis. This is an extreme response to an infection that sets up a life-threatening chain reaction and is a medical emergency. The most common types of infections triggering sepsis are respiratory or urinary tract infections. However, it can also develop with an infected cut or scrape.
When a cut or scrape appears to get bigger, becomes more painful or develops a discharge, it may have become infected. If treatment at home with an antibiotic cream or coconut oil does not demonstrate improvement within 24 hours or you develop the symptoms of sepsis outlined below, seek immediate medical care.
Symptoms of sepsis may be subtle and mistaken for other conditions. If you suspect sepsis, it is vital you seek medical attention and begin immediate treatment. Symptoms may include a rapid heartbeat, high fever with chills, confusion and disorientation, slurred speech or difficulty breathing.
Successful treatment is a considerable challenge and becoming more so as antibiotic-resistant infections become more prevalent. Part of what makes it so deadly is people typically do not suspect it and the longer you wait to treat it, the deadlier it gets.
Even health care workers may miss the signs and delay treatment. For further discussion of the causes, symptoms, risk factors and strategies to reduce your risk as well as a unique treatment with a high rate of success, see “Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis.”