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A wound is a break in the skin, the first line of defense against infection. Minor wounds include cuts, scrapes, 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 open sores that can become seriously infected. You may be able to treat minor wounds at home, by washing the area with clean water and applying a bandage. 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.
Signs and Symptoms
The following signs and symptoms often accompany wounds:
What Causes It?
Accidents or injuries usually cause wounds, but can they can have any of the following causes:
Who's Most At Risk?
You may be at higher risk for wounds if you have these characteristics:
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you receive a serious wound, you should get emergency treatment right away. The doctor will determine the extent and severity of the injury, whether it is likely to get infection, and anything 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 need stitches, as well as a tetanus shot or a tetanus booster.
Most wounds are caused by accidents. 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. If you get a cut or 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 2 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 (such as a nail or 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 should 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:
Surgical and Other Procedures
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).
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
You can use complementary and alternative therapies for minor household injuries or after more serious injuries have gotten medical attention. If you have any question about whether your wound is serious, call your doctor before using alternative therapies. Never apply any herb or supplement 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. If you are having surgery, don't take any herbs or supplements without your doctor's supervision. 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:
Prognosis and Possible Complications
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:
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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Review Date: 7/3/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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