Wound care

by Dr Kerryn Phelps

Since childhood, it seems we've all been taught that when we get a cut, we need to let it dry out. Well, we'd better think again … extensive medical research consistently shows that allowing a wound to dry out and form a scab prolongs the healing process and increases the likelihood of scarring, whereas covering a wound and maintaining a moist environment, helps to speed healing and reduce the chance of scarring.

What is Wound Management?

Proper wound care is determined by the injury’s size, depth, severity, location and cause. However, general principles apply to the treatment of minor wounds.

These include:

1) Keep it Clean - Avoid Infection

A wound that is infected is more likely to scar. Avoiding infection is the main priority with all types of wounds. They should be kept as clean as possible, and continue to be dressed and protected from dirt and bacteria while healing is taking place.

2) Achieve Wound Closure

If the wound is the result of a cut, close the wound edges using either a stitch, suture or glue. If the wound is deep and further damage has been sustained, for example, a cut or laceration on the wrist where tendon, nerve or artery damage has occurred, the treatment of the wound becomes more technical. In this instance it is recommended that you visit a hospital or surgery for an assessment by a qualified doctor.

3) Provide a Moist Healing Environment

Research has shown that a moist wound environment heals faster than a dry environment. Contrary to popular belief, a wound heals more effectively in a moist environment as opposed to leaving it out to dry and form a scab. Providing a moist environment for wound edges to heal allows cells to migrate from the wound edges and move across the wound more easily and rapidly, rather than trying to move across a dry area where a scab has formed.

4) Dress the Wound

Wounds should be kept covered with a dressing that promotes a moist environment. The dressing serves to keep harmful bacteria out and also provides a protective barrier against things which might irritate the wound, such as clothing or sunlight.

A Holistic Approach

It’s more than just biology that affects how fast a wound heals. The way a wound heals will depend on many factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Lifestyle and people’s attitudes are also key factors determining how fast a wound heals. For example, a body that is dealing with poor nutritional intake, infection, drug or alcohol issues, or poor hygiene will have it’s healing process compromised. Anything that helps your general health is going to help healing and reduce your scarring.