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Cleaning Up Cuts January 23, 2008

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Human Body, Microbes.
Tags: , ,

Oooow. Wounds are never fun and they are a big part of medical care. On top of that, it can be a challenge to keep them free from infection while also promoting healing. So, how are wounds kept clean? Antiseptic? Tap water? Salt water? Nothing at all? There has been some debate for a while now about the best way to clean a cut, which can ensure that it heals effectively and doesn’t get infected. As with many things in science, it’s hard to get all of those bickering scientists to agree!

Fixing Up That Cut

Wound Some studies have shown that using an antiseptic seems to slow down the rate of healing, which has prompted others to recommend using saline – also known as salt water. But there’s another concern about saline as well. It’s thought that saline could wash away some of the important growth promoters and white blood cells. This means that healing could slow and your body’s natural ability to fight infection with white blood cells could be compromised by using saline. Others have addressed the issues regarding saline and antiseptic with a completely different suggestion. Tap water! The idea is to use tap water or clean, boiled water.

Tell Me More

According to a Cochrane Review, using tap water to clean wounds does not increase infection rates. Keep in mind, however, that it also doesn’t reduce the infection rate or increase the rate of healing in comparison with doing nothing at all – basically leaving the wound alone. Researchers checked out eleven trials that compared healing and infection rates from a range of cleaning styles. Wounds that were cleaned with tap water had fewer infections in comparison with those cleaned with saline. But, as I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t any difference between the wounds cleaned with tap water and those that weren’t cleaned at all. According to Ritin Fernandez, the main author of the study who works at the Centre for Applied Nursing Research in Liverpool, Australia:

The decision to use tap water to cleanse wounds should take into account the quality of water, nature of wounds and the patient’s general condition.

Your Skin Is A Barrier

Plain and simple – wounds hurt! If infection strikes, the pain increases and other complications can occur. Slow healing is also a problem because it means that one of your most important barriers to microbes and viruses is not in its toughest state. Fortunately, we’ve got researchers studying our wounds to find out the best way to treat them and get our skin back to its healthiest, protective form. Now, if only they could find a way to quiet the babies like me who squeal from even the smallest paper-cut!

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1. Heather Koebcke - January 28, 2008

You are so right when it comes to wounds hurting and when you say that it’s hard to get all of the bickering scientists to agree. Everyone has their opinion on stuff and scientists are no different. I never really thought about using tap water over neosporin or anything else. I really would make a difference where you were getting the tap water, whether it be in a polluted part, or water that has been filtered. The next time I have a wound I will have to take into consideration using tap water.

2. Miss Weird Scientist - February 4, 2008

I agree – if the water is polluted, it paints a very different picture.

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