Abrasions are scrapes to the skin — usually from falling or brushing up against a hard surface. This wound is often quite painful, but rarely serious. Abrasions should be washed with a clean rag using water and soap. Most any soap works. Regular tap water also works just fine. Gentle scrubbing is all that’s necessary, unless the wound is contaminated with dirt, such as a road burn from falling off a bicycle.
In this case, more vigorous scrubbing may be necessary. After cleansing the wound, it should be dried off with a clean towel and an antibiotic ointment, such as Polysporin or Bacitracin, should be applied directly over the wound. The wound may then be covered with a Band-Aid or other sterile dressing.
One may bathe as usual with a new dressing applied after each bath. This should be done daily until the wound has formed a dry scab. After that, the wound will continue to heal with no further treatment. Medical care should be sought if the abrasion is too painful or contaminated to adequately clean.
Unlike an abrasion, a laceration (a cut in the skin) will usually penetrate all layers of the skin and often means a trip to your health care provider.
Almost all bleeding from a laceration can be controlled by pressure. This can be done by applying firm pressure directly over the wound, preferably with some type of a clean cloth-like material, but using a bare hand is acceptable if absolutely necessary. Continuous pressure should be applied until professional treatment is available. Tourniquets applied to an arm or leg should be used as a last resort only if direct pressure can’t stop the bleeding. The use of tourniquets can do more harm than good.
A small laceration that is not bleeding and has its edges close together can usually be treated at home by the same process described for abrasions: soap, water, ointment and Band-Aid.
However, most common lacerations either bleed persistently or have edges that have separated. These usually require professional treatment, which will involve closing the wound. This will stop the bleeding and allow the wound to heal faster.
Most laceration repair is done using sutures or stitches. Virtually all sutures applied to the outside of the skin will need to be removed later on. Sutures that dissolve on their own are used under the skin with deeper lacerations. We now have the option of closing some lacerations using a type of liquid super glue. To qualify for this method, a laceration shouldn’t be too long, should not be actively bleeding and should not be over a joint, such as a knee or knuckle. The advantage of using glue is that no painful shots are needed and there is no need to return for removal. The amount of scarring or the chance of infection is no different between sutures and glue.
One last thing
Also, if you have sustained one of the above-mentioned injuries and you have not had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years and are unsure of the severity or proper treatment, you should seek professional medical care. And those tetanus shots will be the topic of my next column.