I recently returned from the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual meeting, where I was chairing a symposium entitled “Wounds and Ulcers, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. While an elaborate topic for a blog post, it reminded me that many of my patients often ask for advice on how to best care for their wound. Below are my answers to the most common questions about wound care.
1. Shouldn’t I leave my wound open to the air so it can breathe?
NO. Wounds heal much faster when they are left moist and covered
2. What should I use to clean my wound?
Usually plain tap water is fine to clean your wound.
If you live in an area where the tap water is not drinkable, you should use cool previously boiled water.
3. Do I need to clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide?
For clean wounds this is not necessary.
If the wound is dirty, hydrogen peroxide can sometimes help dislodge dirt particles.
4. Do I need antibiotic creams on the wound?
Wounds will heal just as fast with plain Vaseline or Aquaphor healing ointment applied to the wound to keep it moist.
Many people become allergic to antibiotic creams and this can cause rash and itching around the wound as well as holding up the healing process.
5. What type of dressings should I use to cover the wound?
A simple band-aid is fine for small wounds.
There are many over-the-counter dressings which can be left in place for several days at a time and will keep the wound moist to promote healing. Examples include hydrocolloid and hydrogel dressings. These are very handy for hard to reach spots where you may not be able to change the dressing every day.
If you are allergic to latex use, paper tape or a latex-free dressing.
6. When should I see the doctor about my wound?
• If the wound is painful, has yellow or green discharge or smells bad.
• If the skin around the wound becomes red or tender.
• If you develop fevers or chills.
• If the wound is taking a long time to heal.
If you have another pressing question about your wound, give your dermatologist a call before it becomes ugly!
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