Accidents happen to all of us. Whether it be a slip with a cooking knife or a grazed knee from a fall, minor wounds like cuts and scrapes should still be taken seriously and treated quickly.
When you or a member of your family have a cut or scrape where there is bleeding, follow these steps: [a]
- Stop the bleeding by applying pressure with a bandage or clean towel to the wound, and if possible or necessary, raising the wounded area above the heart to help reduce blood flow.
- Ensure your hands are clear, then clean out any foreign particles like dirt from the wound. Disinfect it with a disinfectant or antiseptic treatment. A spray antiseptic like Bepanthen Plus Wound Spray effectively disinfects the wound while limiting the risk of contamination that could arise from touching the wound
- Cover in a sterile bandage
When should you seek immediate care? [B]
- If you cannot stop the bleeding
- If you are bleeding from an artery
- If the skin around the wound is numb
- If the wound is very large, or there is lots of tissue damage
Be aware of bacterial infections [C]
Even when you take all of the right steps to prevent an infection, factors beyond your control may cause one to develop. However, there are certain factors that may indicate a wound is at risk of infection, including if it has a jagged edge and if it was contaminated with dirt or bodily fluids such as pus.
Signs of infection can include:
- Swelling, redness, and a wound that gets more rather than less sore over time
- Pus coming from wound
- A foul odour coming from wound
- Dizziness or a fast heartbeat
- A high temperature or a general feeling of being unwell
How does skin heal? [D]
There are a number of different stages in the healing process.
The first focuses on stopping bleeding:
- Blood vessels leading to the wounded area constrict, reducing the flow of blood (called vasoconstriction)
- Platelets collect around the wound, and along with clotting proteins in the blood, coagulate and create a plug (called a fibrin plug) that stops the bleeding and turning into a scab.
Once bleeding has stopped, the previously constricted blood vessels dilate so that white blood cells, which fight infection, can collect around the wounded area to help prevent and fight off infection.
The healing and rebuilding phase includes the rebuilding of scar tissue under a scab, which closes over the wound. This is helped by the production of collagen at the site of the wound. Scar tissue normally around three weeks after the original injury.
The rate your wound heals can be affected by factors such as age, nutrition and other infections or illnesses. It can also be affected by the level of moisture in your skin – as soon as your wound closes up it’s important to keep the new skin and the skin surrounding the wound moisturised and hydrated to help reduce inflammation and scarring and to support a healthy skin barrier [e] [f].