Minor cuts and scrapes from everyday injuries can usually be treated at home and don’t require a costly trip to the ER. But with antibiotic-resistant infections on the rise, minor cuts could turn fatal.
In fact, antibacterial ointments may be one of the factors behind the spread of an especially lethal strain of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), according to a 2011 study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“People should understand that triple antibiotic [ointment] is not almighty, and avoid preventive or excessive use of this ointment,” study author and bacteriologist Masahiro Suzuki told Livescience writer Joe Brownstein.
First Aid For treating minor cuts and scrapes without topical antibiotics
There are proven steps for treating minor cuts and scrapes at home that don’t use topical antibiotics and won’t compromise your health in the future.
Here are guidelines for proper at-home wound care treatment accredited by the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (URAC) and supported by saludmóvil’s™ integrative medicine expert, Dr. Joseph Mosquera.
Step 1: Wash the wound with cool water
To treat a minor cut at home first wash your hands thoroughly with soap to avoid infection.
Then wash the cut with mild soap and cool water.
“You can hold the wound under running water or fill a tub with cool water and pour it from a cup over the wound.” writes the familydoctor.org editorial staff.
Even though your instinct may be to use a stronger cleansing solution (such as hydrogen peroxide or iodine), the AAFP writes these may irritate wounds and you should wait to apply these solutions until you speak with a healthcare professional. If you do not have access to clean water, however, Dr. Mosquera recommends using betadine antiseptic solution as soon as possible.
The AAFP recommends using hand soap and a soft hand towel to clean the skin around the wound, and if you use anything like tweezers to remove dirt, make sure they are sterile and cleaned.
Step 2: Apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding
Once the area is clean, you want to apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding.
Most minor cuts will usually stop bleeding on their own after a short period, but if bleeding persists, apply firm but gentle pressure on the cut with a clean cloth, paper towel, piece of clothing, tissue or piece of gauze. Raising the cut if it is on a arm or leg above your heart level (if possible) will also help slow the bleeding.
“If the blood soaks through the gauze or cloth you’re holding over the cut, don’t take it off. Just put more gauze or another cloth on top of what you already have in place and apply more pressure for 20 to 30 minutes.” writes the familydoctor.org editorial staff.
Step 3: Keep the wound clean and dry (& skip the antibiotic ointment!)
Once the wound has stopped bleeding, it’s time to consider a bandage.
“Once the wound is no longer bleeding, you could apply an antibacterial ointment to coat and protect the wound, but if you dab antibiotic cream on every little cut and scrape, this may help to contribute to antibiotic resistance down the line,” according to Dr. Mosquera.
Although the AAFP recommends antibiotic ointment, it notes bandages do pretty much the same thing as topical antibiotics and that most minor cuts and scrapes will heal just fine without antibiotic ointment.
The Mayo Clinic staff also writes that antibiotic ointments don’t make wounds heal faster.
“If it’s in an area that will get dirty (such as your hand) or be irritated by clothing (such as your knee), cover it with an adhesive strip (one brand: Band-Aid) or with sterile gauze and adhesive tape.” Writes the familydoctor.org editorial staff.
Change the bandage daily to keep the wound clean and dry.
If the wound isn’t in an area that will get dirty or be rubbed by clothing, you don’t have to cover it. Leaving a wound uncovered actually can help it stay dry and help it heal, according to the AAFP.
When the wound starts to heal
Small cuts and scrapes will form a scab and should heal within a couple days.
Although a scab will inevitably itch, Dr. Mosquera promises the scab will fall off on its own without your help.
“Its also a good idea to keep cuts and scrapes out of the sun while they are healing. Too much sun exposure on healing skin can lead to worse scarring.” says Dr.Mosquera.
When should I get medical care beyond at-home treatment?
You should call your family doctor or visit the emergency room as soon as possible if you begin to notice any of the following signs of infection of a wound, according to Dr. Mosquera.
- Redness, swelling, and warmth
- Pus or drainage
- Increasing pain
- Red streaks around the wound
- Bleeding persists
Remember, larger scrapes or deeper wounds should be seen by a doctor or nurse.
Cuts that are more complicated, according to MedLinePlus, may require a repair with skin glue, stitches or staples.
Happy and healthy healing friends!
Still brewing on this? Send comments, questions, and concerns to Elara@saludmovil.com.