There are many ways in which we can suffer wounds
Ouch! The sharp knife scalps the fingertip as neatly as it operates on the spring-onion stalks. I rush toward tap, towel and the turmeric-coated band-aid, cursing my luck, life and the deadline. I wonder. Burn spots on the hand, bump on the head, chewed cuticle, stubbed-out toe, scraped knee, itching mosquito-bite — there are an amazing number of ways in which we can hurt ourselves!
“Yes,” sighed Kavitha, Assistant Podiatrist, MV Hospital, Royapuram, and named them. Abrasions from rough surfaces, avulsion when a finger is forcibly pulled away (whoa!!), contusion/bruise from an internal injury, crush-wound when a heavy object falls on you (watch out!), cut (razor!), laceration (tear), punctures caused by nails/knives/broken glass and the all-too-common burns and blisters. “Burn injuries to the skin can be thermal, chemical or electrical,” Kavitha explained.
Mercifully, minor injuries can be treated at home. A bruise needs only a cold pack (ice wrapped in a wet cloth) for 20 minutes to stop the bleeding. After 48 hours, apply a warm, wet washcloth for 10 minutes, three times a day to help reabsorb the blood. For cuts and scratches, wash the wound with running tap water or clean it with a washcloth. Rub on an antibiotic, stick a band-aid. Change it daily. A large, open wound obviously needs to be looked at by a doctor.
Surgical wounds are getting to be equally common. “Healing depends on the health, nutritional status of the patient and precautions taken by the surgeons,” said Dr. M. Mohan Rao of Mohan Rau Memorial Hospital. “Of course, following doctors’ instructions is vital.” His own include: “Rest the operated part. Avoid injury to the wound — it’s a major post-surgery concern. Eat nourishing food. Control BP and blood-sugar. High BP can encourage bleeding in a minor wound. Protect against contamination by foul water, dust or dirt.”
Some believe in leaving a closed surgical wound open to air, he said. The serum at the suture line is expected to dry and effect a sealing job. The alternative is to apply a dressing for 24-48 hrs before leaving it open. A naked wound? Dress it up. Keep insects away.
About diabetics’ wounds, Kavitha isn’t sweetening the news. “Control blood-sugar levels for prevention,” she said. “Wash your feet everyday with soap and tap-water, scrub between toes. Dry your feet well with a soft towel. Apply moisturising cream. Watch out for ingrown toe-nails. Don’t walk barefoot anywhere. Wear socks with shoes. Check feet with a mirror daily. Redness, swelling, discolouration? Consult your doc.” She recommends footwear made of micro-cellular polymer or EVA (ethyl-vinyl acetate). “Don’t pinch calluses, corns or bunions,” said Prof. Vijay Viswanathan. “It’s a good idea to get the feet professionally cleaned at a beauty salon once a month.” For treatment, go to a surgeon or a podiatrist. Learn to “offload” your feet.
Wounds are partial. On some people, they close neatly, crust and fall off before colleagues go thsu thsu. With others, they dig in, enjoying the hospitality. Obviously, more serious wounds take longer to heal. Bed sores/pressure ulcers are bad. Mainly, who/what you are influences healing time. Age (a younger you would shake it off faster), nutrition (vitamin C makes collagen), smoking (non-smokers, on average, heal more quickly), stress (that reason-for-all-ailments), infections or illnesses such as diabetes, malfunctioning thyroid, inched-up BP and poor circulation can decrease the body’s ability to heal. “Scar formation can be more aggressive in some dark-coloured skin types,” said Dr. Rao.
Outside all this is our belief system. Grandma rubbed honey gently on a cut finger or grazed knee believing it would soak up the fluid and kill infecting bacteria. Turmeric is generally accepted as antiseptic. Lime (chuna), plant latex and herbs have all covered our bruises and minor lacerations. And don’t we all kiss away the baby’s pain when she’s hurt?
Yet, check around: Is there a well-stocked first-aid kit nearby? Phone within reach? Wounds are waiting to happen.
Use clean material over the wound.
Wash the wound with distilled water.
See that the dressing covers the wound adequately; the bandage is snug, and not too tight.
Open it carefully and aseptically.
Cool the burn area at once — hold it under cold, running water for at least 10 minutes.
Cover the blister with a loose gauze or cotton wool bandage until it heals, after applying an antiseptic, just in case.
Seek medical assistance for severe wounds.
Don’t suck a bleeding finger.
Don’t tourniquet or tie up an injured limb to stem bleeding.
Never put ice on a burn; it’ll delay healing or cause extra damage.
Don’t pop blisters. It exposes very sensitive raw skin. It’s painful and can lead to infection.