Cutting and scraping your skin is a very common occurrence. Opening your skin like this makes the perfect opportunity for the infections and bacterial growth in the cuts and scrapes, and initial cleaning of the wound will aid in flushing out all the unwanted bacteria, and help to create the environment for the healing of the wound.
Once you cut yourself, the most immediate reaction everyone gets is to clean the wound with soap or hydrogen peroxide before putting on a bandage. Hydrogen peroxide is quite popular for wound cleaning and has been used since the 1920s because of its antiseptic properties. Its popularity still does not die down, however, there are some controversies surrounding this antibacterial agent.
Hydrogen Peroxide Controversy
The doctors are still debating whether or not hydrogen peroxide is actually helpful when it comes to wound cleaning. Many studies have shown that hydrogen peroxide is not only quite ineffective when it comes to wound irrigation, but that it also causes other problems in the healing stages of the wound. The studies suggest that the solution actually slows down the healing process altogether!
Many believe that the bubbling of hydrogen peroxide actually kills the bacteria located within the lesion, but actually, not only does it get rid of bacteria, but also damages the healthy skin cells in the process. The professionals suggest using a milder solution, such as saline, mild soap, and cold water to rinse the debris, bacteria, and dirt out of the wound.
How to Clean the Wound and How Hydrogen Peroxide Works
Cleaning the wound with hydrogen peroxide is quite simple. Always make sure to wash your hands with soap and water before touching the wound. Put on the sterile medical gloves, and use your bare hands only if there is no way for you to put on gloves. Start by irrigating the cut with cool water for at least five to ten minutes. You should use large amounts of water and a moderate pressure (if you are using the faucet, make sure it is at least halfway open). If your kitchen sink has the sprayer, use that to get rid of the most of the debris.
If you see any large debris, remove it with tweezers you’ve previously cleaned with alcohol. Never push the tweezers into the wound! Next, use a mild soap and water to clean the wound and gently scrub if needed with a washcloth. For very dirty wounds, moderate scrubbing may be needed, but make sure not to go overboard, as hard scrubbing can actually damage the tissue and raise the chance of infection. In most cases, scrubbing will hurt and increase the bleeding, but sometimes it is necessary to completely clean the wound.
Stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure on the wound with a sterile bandage and elevate the wound if possible. Apply hydrogen peroxide to kill any residual bacteria on the cut and bandaged with a sterile dressing. This way, you are keeping the wound clean and letting the healing process start. Make sure to keep the wound moist to help the skin heal and to keep it elastic.
Apply an antibiotic cream or antibiotic ointment to the wound to keep it moist. These creams will not help the wound heal any faster, but they will protect it from bacteria and reduce the risk of tetanus or other infection. Bandage the wound with a clean dressing if needed, and change the dressing daily, or when it becomes dirty or wet. If the wound is just a scratch or a scrape, you may leave it uncovered.
If the wound is deep, you may need to get stitches. Until you get to your doctor, consider putting on butterfly tape or some adhesive strips to keep it as closed as possible. This minimizes the risk of infection and scarring. If the wound is not healing or if the pain keeps getting worse, if you see swelling, or experience drainage or warmth, you may have an infection which should be treated immediately. Finally, if you have not had a tetanus shot in the past five years, get one as soon as possible.
Now, hydrogen peroxide breaks the bacterial cell membranes open by attracting the electrons they contain. The fizzing you see is caused by the enzyme inside the bacteria known as catalase which reacts with the hydrogen peroxide and releases an oxygen molecule. This also means that hydrogen peroxide will kill the catalase in your healthy skin cells, so you should not overuse it, as it can actually promote the formation of scars