skip to Main Content

How To Clean A Wound: The Controversy Of Antiseptics

What do you do when your little one scrapes their leg? Do you rush off to your medicine cupboard to grab your bottle of Dettol of Savlon? This may actually not be necessary. Whilst it’s important you clean a wound as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk of infection, what you clean it with has been an area of debate in the medical world for years. Research has shown that running tap water over a wounds is just as effictive in cleaning a wound. Antiseptics may actually damage the skin and slow down the healing process.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ANTISEPTIC AND A DISINFECTANT?

A Biocide is the general term for a chemical agent that inactivates microorganisms and depending on their activity they can either inhibit the growth of, or kill microorganisms completely.

Both antiseptics and disinfectants inactivate microorganisms. These terms are often used interchangeably but there is a very big difference. Antiseptics are biocides that are used on living tissues and disinfectants are biocides used on inanimate objects or surfaces. So for example in your kitchen, you would use an antiseptic to wash your hands and a disinfectant to wash the countertops.

HOW SHOULD I CLEAN A WOUND?

Before you clean a wound you have to stop any bleeding. This is done by applying direct pressure. Of course the wound may still continue to bleed a little for a while and/or when you clean the wound it may start to bleed again. As long as the wound is not bleeding excessively you can proceed to clean it.

For most simple wounds I would simply recommend rinsing them under cool running water. In the ER and in theatre we always clean wounds with lots and lots of water. If you are out and about and don’t have running water, you can always use bottled water. If this weren’t available then I would rinse the wound with a diluted antiseptic such as cetrimide or povidine-iodine (if of course there are no known allergies). If you are going to use an antiseptic, use it only once to initially clean and never chronically. When you clean the wound again after a day or so use water. Don’t ever use rubbing alcohol or peroxide to clean an open wound.

You can gently rub off any foreign material using a piece of gauze soaked in water. Use tweezers to remove any debris that may still remain. Remember to disinfect the tweezers before use.

Once the wound is clean you can then apply a moist dressing. You can use petroleum jelly or what I love to use is a lanolin ointment such as a nipple cream. To find out more about moist healing you can read my previous blog: https://www.oneaid.co.za/picking-scabs-popping-blisters/

WHAT ABOUT ANTIBIOTIC CREAMS?

These include creams such as Supiroban, Fucidin and Neosporin. I do not recommend using an antibiotic cream for a simple wound. Most wounds heal very well on their own.

The problem with using these creams is the possibility of developing bacterial resistence. If the wound were to get infected later on and you have been applying an antibiotic cream since day one, this cream would not be very effective against the infection.

Technically you can develop resistence towards antiseptics but this is very unlikely since antiseptics have a broader spectrum of microorganisms they inactivate than antibiotic creams. If the wound was very contaminated and has a high chance of infection then I would rather apply a very thin layer of an antiseptic cream.

Newer research has found that the body’s surface actually supports wound healing on its own. We all have bacteria that live on our skins that cause us no harm. These bacteria help protect us from pathogens in the environment. Using creams and solutions that have antimicrobial activity will upset the balance of organisms on our skins and interfere with this defense system.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AN INFECTED WOUND?

After you have cleaned the wound and applied a dressing it’s important to monitor the wound for any signs of infection over the next few days:

  • Swelling;
  • Redness;
  • Increasing pain;
  • Bad smell from the wound;
  • Warm skin around wound;
  • Wound is leaking pus; and/or
  • Body temperature > 38 degrees Celsius.

If you notice any of these above changes, go straight to the emergency room.

If you are anything like my mother you probably have very old big bottles of antiseptics lying around. One of my microbiology Professors at University once told us that microorganisms can grow on the surface of these antiseptic liquids after a while. Also the antiseptic components of these solutions deteriorate after some time so always check the expiry dates. Rather buy smaller bottles and don’t keep them too long after they have been opened.

RESOURCES

https://emj.bmj.com/content/19/6/556.1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC88911/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1743919117305368

https://www.woundsresearch.com/article/1585

https://www.woundsresearch.com/article/1586

https://www.woundsresearch.com/article/sams-dodd

https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10355/3613/DoTopicalAntibioticsImproveWound.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/45149036_Benefit_and_harm_of_iodine_in_wound_care_A_systematic_review

Tips For Choosing The Right High Chair

Before going out and buying a high chair it’s important to know the safety requirements. A US study found that more than 9 400 children, aging three years and younger, were treated each year for high chair related injuries in emergency rooms from 2003 to 2010. That’s one child every hour!

Nearly all of these injuries were as a result of a fall where the child either climbed in or out of the chair or stood in it. Majority of the injuries seen were head injuries (37%) then bumps and bruises (33%) followed by lacerations (19%). Most of us use our high chairs in the dining room or kitchen where the flooring is usually hard, so you can imagine the impact this has on a small brain.

This has prompted the US to update their safety standards (unfortunately there are no available statistics for South Africa). From mid-2019 all high chairs in the US will have to have a passive crotch restraint and a three-point restraint system, which means there has to be a fixed post that sits between a child’s legs and restraints that are fixed to the high chair in three different places. They found that children were able to slip out the bottom of a high chair and hope a fixed post will prevent this.

High chairs are not recommended for children younger than 6 months of age. A child is only ready for a chair once they have good head and neck control and are able to sit up on their own. If one is used too early a child could experience positional asphyxia. You may however, be able to start a little sooner with a reclining high chair (see my previous blog, ‘How safe is your car seat?’). https://www.oneaid.co.za/how-safe-is-your-car-seat/

CHOOSING THE RIGHT HIGH CHAIR

Framework: choose a high chair that is sturdy. Put some weight on it and see if it squeaks, deforms or moves or collapses.

Gaps: make sure there are no gaps your child can slip out of. Also check for gaps that little fingers can get caught in.

Harness: choose a high chair with either a three-point or five-point harness that includes a crotch strap or a post. The restraint should go over the shoulders, around the waist and if a five-point harness then between the legs.  

Wide base: a high chair becomes top heavy when your child is in. Choosing a chair with a wide base will make it more stable so that it does not tip easily.

Wheels: if you choose a high chair with wheels, make sure they can be locked when the chair is in use.

Folding locks: if the high chair folds check that the locks work well enough so that the chair cannot fall or collapse when in use.

Joints: choose a high chair with metal joints. These are stronger than plastic, which can crack after time.

Safety standards: make sure the high chair meets current safety standards and has been approved by an international safety authority.

BOOSTER SEATS AND HOOK-ON SEATS

Please be careful when you use these chairs. If not used correctly these seats can be dangerous.

Hook-on seat: These chairs are mounted directly onto a table and should only be used once your baby has good head and neck control and can sit upright. The mounts must be slip resistant and because this seat carries the entire weight of your baby the table has to be strong so that it does not tip over.

Booster seat: These seats are attached to normals chair by straps to raise a child’s height. They are usually used when a child has outgrown the high chair but is not quite tall enough to sit at the table unaided. They should also have straps to keep your child in the seat.

KEEPING YOUR CHILD SAFE IN A HIGH CHAIR

  • Never leave your child unsupervised when they are in a high chair.
  • Always use the safety straps when your child sits in the chair, even if only for a few minutes. The tray is not a restraint.
  • If the chair folds, make sure it is locked each time you set the chair up.
  • If the chair has wheels, make sure they are locked each time you set the chair up.
  • Never allow your child to stand in the high chair.
  • Do not place the high chair near a counter or table. Your child may be able to push against the surface and cause the chair to tip over.
  • Don’t allow older children to climb or play on the high chair while another child is seated in it because it could tip over.
  • Position the high chair at its lowest possible height if this is adjustable.
  • Make sure potential hazards such as hot food, drink and sharp cutlery are out of reach.

When choosing a high chair opt for an age-appropriate one with plenty of safety features. It’s also important to check often for recalls once you have purchased your chair. High chairs are commonly recalled because of their safety issues. Recent recalls include the Skip Hop Tuo convertible high chair and the Graco Table2Table 6-in-1. You can check http://www.recalls.gov to see if your high chair has been recalled.

RESOURCES

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0009922813510599

http:// https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/newsroom/news-releases/2013/12/new-study-finds-24-children-a-day-are-treated-in-us-emergency-departments-for-high-chair-related

Back To Top