A wound is a break in the skin, the first line of defense against infection. Minor wounds include cuts, scrapes (abrasions), and puncture wounds. Other examples include incisions (clean cuts), lacerations (jagged, irregular cuts), diabetic ulcers, and burns. While most minor wounds heal easily, some can worsen into chronic open sores that can become seriously infected. You may be able to treat minor wounds at home, but you should seek emergency care for any animal or human bite or a cut greater than ½ inch long where you can see fat, muscle, or bone.
The following signs and symptoms often accompany wounds:
Accidents or injuries usually cause wounds, but can they can have any of the following causes:
People with the following characteristics may be at higher risk of wounds:
If you receive a serious wound, you should get emergency treatment right away. Your health care provider will determine the extent and severity of the injury, whether infection is likely, and conditions that might complicate treatment. Your health care provider may also order laboratory tests, such as a blood test and urinalysis, as well as a culture to check for bacteria in the wound. You may also need a tetanus shot or a tetanus booster.
Most wounds are accidental and often preventable. Make your home safe by removing any objects that might cause trips or falls, keep the water heater at 120 degrees, keep knives and hot pots and pans away from the edge of counters, and pay close attention when using knives. Once you've received a wound, carefully cleaning and bandaging it can usually prevent infection and other complications.
Some wounds, such as minor cuts and scrapes, can be treated at home. Stop the bleeding with direct pressure, and clean the wound with water -- you don' t need soap or hydrogen peroxide. Apply an antibiotic cream, then cover the wound with an adhesive bandage. Change the bandage every day or when it gets wet. If any redness spreads from the wound after two days, or if you see a yellow drainage from the wound, see your doctor immediately.
Other wounds can be serious. Get emergency care immediately if the wound won' t stop bleeding or spurts blood, if the wound is from an animal or human bite, or if there is a serious puncture wound. If an object (nail, fishhook) is still stuck in the wound, don' t take it out. Apply pressure to the wound to stop bleeding, and go to the hospital.
Some serious wounds may need a skin graft, where a piece of skin is cut from a healthy part of the body and used to heal the damaged area.
Your health care provider will determine whether the wound can be closed immediately with stitches, or whether it must be kept open because of contamination. Infected wounds are not closed until the wound has been successfully treated.
Your health care provider may prescribe the following medications:
Some severe wounds may need surgery. This may involve cutting away burned tissue and removing contaminated tissue, skin grafting, and draining wound abscesses (pus surrounded by inflamed tissue).
You can use complementary and alternative therapies for minor household injuries or after more serious injuries have received thorough medical attention. If you have any question about whether your wound is serious, do not use alternative therapies before speaking with your doctor. Never apply topical remedies to any open wound without a doctor' s supervision.
Some nutritional supplements may help wounds heal, although not all have good scientific studies behind them. You can also take these supplements before surgery to reduce healing time. Lower the dose or stop use when your wound has healed.
Certain herbal remedies may offer relief from symptoms and help wounds heal faster. Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). People with a history of alcoholism should not take tinctures. Dose for teas is 1 heaping tsp. per cup of water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20 minutes), unless otherwise noted.
Applied to skin
Never apply herbs to open wounds unless under a doctor's supervision.
Taken by mouth
Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.
Some of the most common acute remedies for wounds are:
Most minor wounds heal quickly. For more severe wounds, the prognosis depends on the extent of the wound, as well as any infection that might develop. There are several complications associated with wounds: infection, keloid scar tissue (an overgrowth of scar tissue), and gangrene (tissue death that may require amputation). Bleeding, sepsis, and tetanus (a potentially fatal infection of the nervous system) are also complications that can occur.
Check for signs of bleeding, discoloration, or swelling in and around the wound. Tell your health care provider if you have fever, increasing pain, or develop drainage, which may mean an infection.
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