The skin is the largest organ of the body which acts as a protective barrier. A wound is a breakdown in the protective function of the skin.

Wound healing is a complex process; proper wound care helps in faster healing of wounds, in reducing the chances of infection and in hastening the recovery.

Wound classification

Wounds may be classified as open wounds or closed wounds. A closed wound involves tissue damage wherein bleeding occurs under the surface of the skin and is usually accompanied by swelling at the site, for example – contusion. An open wound involves a break in the skin wherein the internal tissue is exposed. Minor open wounds may be treated at home. Falls, accidents with sharp objects, and minor accidents are the most common causes of open wounds.

Types of open wounds

Abrasion: An abrasion wound occurs when the skin rubs against a rough surface, for example – scraped knee.

Laceration: A laceration is a deep opening in the skin. Lacerations usually occur from accidents involving knives or other sharp tools. Bleeding is usually more in this type of wound.

Punctures: A puncture wound is a small hole in the soft tissue. Splinters and needles can cause acute puncture wounds.

Stab wounds: Knife or gunshot wounds are examples for stab wounds; these can damage deep muscles and internal organs. These wounds can lead to significant bleeding.

Home care for minor wounds

Any wound that results in severe bleeding has to be treated immediately by professionals. However, minor wounds may be treated at home. Even if minor, these wounds need to be treated quickly in order to avoid any infection. Proper wound care at home is vital for healing.

The following should be considered while treating minor wounds at home:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before wound cleaning.
  • Wash and disinfect the wound to remove all dirt and debris.
  • Use direct pressure and elevation to control bleeding and swelling.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry.
  • You may apply common antiseptics on the wound site.
  • Minor wounds may heal without a bandage, but if required wrap the wound with a sterile dressing or bandage.
  • Healthy diet consisting of high protein, vitamins & minerals and plenty of rest are very important for faster healing of wounds.
  • Depending on the type of wound and symptoms, several treatments can relieve the pain, for example holding ice on the affected area can relieve bruising and swelling.

During wound healing process, following things have to be avoided

  1. Intense workouts – these may cause wound or scab to reopen
  2. Swimming in the ocean or public pool – to avoid bacteria exposure
  3. Covering the wound with shoes or gloves for lengthy periods of time

When to see a doctor

Most minor cuts and scrapes will heal in few days, but some wounds necessarily require doctor’s advice:

  • Wounds with higher risk of infection requiring prescription for oral antibiotics or topical antiseptics / antibiotics.
  • Cuts or punctures from a rusty or dirty object that may require tetanus shot
  • An open wound that is deeper than 1/2 inch
  • Wounds where the bleeding doesn’t stop with direct pressure on the injury site for over 5 minutes
  • Wounds on the face, which requires medical attention for cosmetic reasons
  • Wounds that show signs of infection, such as redness, pain when touched and draining pus.