Wound Cleansing

Problems with getting wounds to heal or skin infections to clear are often related to the way you handle the wound itself. Overly rough treatment can aggravate inflamed areas, possibly even helping infections spread.

New skin and connective tissue are sensitive. Use warmed saline or water and avoid hard scrubbing. Use your fingertips (wear latex gloves) in light, circular motions instead of using sponges, cotton or gauze. If there is a heavy accumulation of drainage or scabbing that needs to be removed, allow the cleanser and water to soak in thoroughly first. Peroxide can also help loosen the crusted areas.

Contrary to popular belief, allowing peroxide to do some of this work is less traumatic to the tissues than hard scrubbing, but use it only if absolutely needed. Enzyme sprays and creams are also good but more expensive (farm-supply stores may have the best prices). Injured and inflamed areas may also be more sensitive to iodine-based surgical scrubs. Instead, try a medicated shampoo (see August 1998) on the areas surrounding wounds and over the top of thick crusts or scabs.

Rinse thoroughly, using warm then cold water (cold contracts blood vessels and eases inflammation as a final step). Gently pat the surrounding normal areas to remove excess moisture but allow the wound or infected spots to air dry completely before applying any medications or wraps/bandages. Use water-based medications rather than oily ones and apply in a thin layer. The skin needs to “breathe.”

If heavy drainage or marked inflammation (heat and swelling) persist, you need systemic (injectable or oral) treatment for probable deeper infections. As wounds stop draining and infected areas improve, stretch cleansing/treatment sessions to every 36 to 48 hours instead of once or twice a day (unless they begin to worsen).