After an injury, many of us rush to treat an open wound to ensure the best possible outcome. Richard Samuel, MD, medical director for Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care, answers questions on how you can care for minor wounds at home to prevent infection and promote healthy healing.
Q: What should I do immediately after getting wounded?
Dr. Samuel: For minor wounds, focus on keeping the wound as clean as possible. Rinse your wound with a saline solution, bottled water or clean running water to wash away any bacteria or surface germs. Next, with clean hands, use soap and water to gently clean around the wound. If you are bleeding, gently press over the wound until it stops bleeding. After you clean the area, examine your wound for debris or other foreign objects. Finally, apply a first aid ointment and consider covering the wound with a clean bandage.
Q: Does my wound require medical attention?
Dr. Samuel: Even after properly cleaning a wound at home, your injury may require additional medical attention to heal properly. You should visit an urgent care center or go to the emergency department if any of the following apply to you:
- There is a foreign object in your wound.
- You were punctured by an unclean object or bitten by an animal.
- The wound appears infected, keeps bleeding or is deep.
Your urgent care provider can offer you treatment to heal these types of wounds, including stitches, antibiotics or a tetanus shot. For more serious wounds, uncontrolled bleeding and head wounds you should go to an emergency room for treatment.
Q: How do I treat the wound in the following days?
Dr. Samuel: Continue to keep a close eye on the healing of your wound over the next several days. Avoid getting the wound wet, touching it or getting the area dirty while the wound heals. In most cases, the wound will begin to heal in a few days or weeks. If you already visited an urgent care or emergency room, follow your doctor’s instructions to promote healthy healing.
Q: Should I cover my wound or keep it open?
Dr. Samuel: Covering the wound depends on the type of injury and where it is located. If the wound could potentially rub against unclean objects or other people, it’s best to cover it with a bandage or gauze and tape. Scrapes that cover a large area of your body usually heal best when covered with dressings that tightly seal your wound from air and harmful bacteria. Wounds that will not rub against your clothes or other people and objects can be left exposed to dry and heal.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control, Kids Health from Nemours, U.S. National Library of Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians