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Common First Aid Myths

 

I am often surprised by how some of my patients manage their injuries before they come to the emergency room. I think my own mother is also guilty of practising some really strange methods whilst I was growing up. Over the years, medical advice and management has evolved. What may have made sense years ago is now out of date and has been replaced with more sound research and often logic. Here are just a few of the first aid practices and myths that I have seen over the years.

1. BUTTER ON A BURN

The idea behind this myth is not entirely wrong. Butter can help alleviate the initial pain caused by a burn because of its direct cooling effect. This however does not last long because butter, or any greasy substance for that matter, will actually slow down the release of heat from the skin. This means that the trapped heat can continue to burn the skin. Rather run the affected area under cool running tap water for up to 20 minutes immediately after the burn.

2. LEAN YOUR HEAD BACK DURING A NOSEBLEED

This one I see all the time and it is very wrong. If you lean your head back during a nosebleed you will inevitably swallow blood. This blood can irritate the stomach and cause nausea and vomiting. It can also even cause you to choke. Rather pinch the nose closed and lean your head forward.

3. PUT SOMETHING IN SOMEONE’S MOUTH WHEN THEY ARE HAVING A SEIZURE

This is often done to try and prevent someone from biting his or her tongue during a seizure. Tongue biting does happen often, but it very rarely causes any airway obstruction. You are more likely to cause an airway obstruction from whatever you have put in the mouth.

Seizures can look really scary but it’s better to move that person to a flat surface and clear the area around them so that they cannot injure themselves, while waiting for the seizure to end.

4. RUBBING ALCOHOL FOR A FEVER

 Many parents try reduce their little one’s fevers by rubbing alcohol directly on the skin or adding it to a sponge bath. As alcohol evaporates it can significantly cool the skin and potentially help reduce a fever. The problem with this is that rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) is also quickly absorbed into the skin and the fumes inhaled, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.

5. STAY AWAKE AFTER A BUMP TO THE HEAD

Parents often ask me if their little one is allowed to sleep after taking a knock to the head. It is no longer recommended to keep someone awake after a head injury. The concern was always that if someone with a concussion went to sleep they would not wake up.

If there are no red flags then it is perfectly acceptable to allow your child to sleep. Sleep is actually really important for the brain to heal. You can read more about head injuries here https://www.oneaid.co.za/a-bump-to-the-head-when-should-you-worry/

6. LIFT YOUR ARMS ABOVE YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU ARE COUGHING OR CHOKING

Someone who has a partial airway obstruction will still be able to cough. You should do nothing else but encourage coughing. When I was a child, my mother used to make me lift my arms up above my head. This can actually be dangerous because when you lift your arms, this movement causes the neck to move as well. The object causing the irritation may then slip further down into the airway and cause a complete obstruction.

7. MAKE SOMEONE VOMIT IF THEY HAVE SWALLOWED A POTENTIAL POISON

Do not make your child or anyone vomit by giving Ipecac syrup or even sticking your finger in their throats. This can be very harmful, especially if the poison swallowed is burning or corrosive.

The substance may get breathed into the lungs when vomited up and cause serious damage. The substance may also cause more damage to the lining of the oesophagus when vomited. The best thing to do is to call an ambulance or head straight to your nearest emergency room.

8. IF SOMEONE FEELS FAINT, MAKE THEM SIT WITH THEIR HEAD BETWEEN THEIR KNEES

If you do this and the person bent over does faint, they can fall out of the chair and get injured. Fainting is usually caused by decreased blood to the brain. If you are seated and put your head between your legs you will only slightly increase blood flow to the brain. It is far better to make that person lie down flat on their back and raise their legs. If the person has already fainted you should also lay them on their back and raise their legs.

9. APPLY HEAT TO A SPRAIN, STRAIN OR FRACTURE

Cold is commonly used for acute injuries and heat for more chronic conditions. Heat causes blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow, swelling and ultimately pain and cold has the opposite effect. After a sprain, strain or fracture it is better to apply ice to help with the swelling and pain.

Heat is very good for muscle spasms and other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Heat reduces muscle tension and causes muscles to relax. The increase in blood flow caused by the heat also helps remove pain-causing inflammatory cells and bring in healing cells.

10. PUT RAW STEAK ON A BLACK EYE

We can probably thank the Looney Tunes for this one! The only benefit you will get from this myth is the effects of the cold. Meat is often full of bacteria so whilst a big piece of raw steak will help with the swelling, it may cause an eye infection in the process. It is much better to apply an ice pack or even a frozen bag of peas.

There are many other myths. Do you have any others you would like to share with me? Can you remember any first aid tips or tricks that your Mother and even your Grandmother used to practice?

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

A Simple Guide To Bandages

With so many different types of bandages available its easy to get confused with what bandage to use when. Bandages are generally used to cover wounds, to apply pressure to bleeding wounds and to support and immobilise sprains, strains and broken bones.

I have put together a list of the most common types of bandages and when to use them. As you will see most of them have interchangeable uses so its really a matter of preference and of course, cost.

There are three major types of bandages – roller bandages, triangular bandages and tubular bandages.

ROLLER BANDAGE

These are long single strips of breathable material. Depending on the thickness and elasticity, these bandages are the most versatile.

The different roller bandages are described below:

1. Conforming bandage
This bandage has a high degree of stretch so that it can conform to any shape. This bandage comes in a light, medium and heavy weight

Use:

  • Can be used to hold a dressing in place
  • Can be used with a dressing to apply pressure to control bleeding wounds
  • A thicker weight can be used to compress and support a sprain or strain

2. Crepe bandage
This is a thicker weight than conforming bandage.

Use:

  • Can be used to hold a dressing in place
  • Can be used with a dressing to apply pressure to control bleeding wounds
  • Can be used to compress and support a sprain or strain
  • Can be used to compress a limb in the event of a poisonous snake bite

Both conforming and crepe bandages are never applied directly onto open wounds. A dressing must be in place first.

3. First aid dressing
This is a roller bandage that has a dressing pad sewn into it. The bandage is usually lightweight with some elasticity.

Use:

  • The pad is applied directly onto an open wound and then the bandage is rolled to keep it in place. There is no need to apply a separate dressing first.

4. Elastic adhesive bandage
This roller bandage has a very sticky adhesive, which can be taped directly onto the skin. This bandage is thick weight. However, this is not my favourite bandage as it can be very painful to remove if there is a lot of hair on the skin and some people may have an allergy to the adhesive.

Use:

  • Can be applied onto a joint to compress and support a sprain or strain
  • Can be applied over a conforming or crepe bandage for additional pressure to control bleeding wounds. Great for amputations and arterial bleeding.
  • Can be applied onto a conforming or crepe bandage to secure it in place
  • Can also be used to hold ice packs in place on the injured area

5. Cohesive bandage
This is a thin lightweight breathable bandage that sticks to itself, without actually being sticky. There is no risk of pulling out any hairs when removing this bandage.

Use:

  • Most commonly used to compress and support sprains and strains

TRIANGULAR BANDAGE

This is the most versatile bandage. It is usually a single sheet of thick cotton or calico in the shape of a large triangle. It can be applied to areas of the body where it may be more difficult to apply a roller bandage such as the scalp.

Use:

  • These bandages are most commonly used to construct slings for soft tissue injuries, broken bones or dislocations. Some triangular bandages come with safety pins to help you construct the sling but most of the time you will not need them;
  • Can be used to secure splints;
  • Can be used as a pad on top of a dressing to apply extra pressure for a bleeding wound;
  • Can be folded down to form a strip of bandage and wrapped around a wound to hold a dressing in place and/or apply extra pressure to control bleeding;
  • Can be used to elevate a limb to reduce blood flow to the area if bleeding a lot from an open wound;
  • Can be used to elevate a limb to reduce blood flow and limit swelling; and/or
  • Can be used as a tourniquet in an emergency when the use of a tourniquet may be warranted.

TUBULAR BANDAGE

These bandages are not normally found in first aid kits. They can be medium to heavy weight.

Use:

  • The thicker weight bandages are used for compression, support and to reduce swelling for joint sprains and strains;
  • Can be used to protect the skin under a cast for a broken bone;
  • Can technically be used to keep a dressing in place and apply pressure to bleeding wounds but care needs to be taken when applying it so that the dressing does not shift when the tube is pulled over the injured area.

WHAT IS A DRESSING?

A dressing is something that is applied directly onto a wound to cover it. A bandage can then be applied over a dressing to keep it in place if the dressing is not adhesive.

WHAT IS A PLASTER?

Depending which way you look at it, a plaster can either be an adhesive dressing or an adhesive bandage with an attached dressing. Plasters are more commonly known as adhesive dressings and Band-Aid is a brand of plasters.

Bandages are only helpful if used properly. It’s important to recognise the bandages you have in your first aid kit and to know which bandage you should use when and how to properly apply them.

First Aid Tips Every Mom Should Know

10 First Aid Tips Every Mom Should Know

I was recently asked by All4Women to put together my top 10 first aid tips for moms. I wanted to share these with all of you in this blog post. You can find more tips in my MiniKit Pocket Guide (https://www.oneaid.co.za/product/minikit/).

  1. Keep emergency numbers on speed dial: Every parent should know who to call in an emergency. You should also teach this to your children. Write the numbers down and stick them on your fridge or somewhere near the phone.
  2. Cuts and scrapes: Stop any bleeding by pressing firmly on the wound with a gauze or cloth. Then rinse the wound under cool running water before applying a dressing such as a plaster. Tap water is perfectly fine, you don’t need fancy antiseptic solutions.
  3. Burns: Rinse burns under cool running water for up to 20 minutes. This will prevent any further damage and reduce pain. Do not use freezing cold water or ice
  4. Bee stings: Remove the stinger if still attached and apply an ice pack to reduce swelling. Don’t use tweezers as this may squeeze out more poison. Rather scrape the stinger off with a flat-edged object such as a bankcard.
  5. Nosebleed: Lean your child forward so they don’t swallow any blood and pinch the nose closed just below the bony part. Blood can irritate the stomach and cause nausea and vomiting.
  6. Broken bones: If you suspect a broken bone don’t move the limb or apply any weight. Splint the injured limb to prevent any movement before going to the emergency room.
  7. Seizures: Never put anything into the mouth of a child who is having a seizure. This includes medicines for fever if your child is having a febrile convulsion. Roll your child onto his or her side and wait for the seizure to stop.
  8. Heat exhaustion: Get your child out of the heat and elevate his or her legs. Prevention is key so make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids before and during any activity in hot weather.
  9. Poisoning: If you suspect your child has swallowed a potentially harmful substance do not make them vomit or give them anything to eat or drink unless told to do so by emergency services. Here are 10 essential tips to prevent poisoning in your home (https://www.oneaid.co.za/10-essential-tips-to-prevent-poisoning-inyour-home/).
  10. Be prepared: Always have a well stocked first aid kit on hand so you can manage minor injuries without delay and reduce the risk of infection or severity of injury.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram @oneaidsa

Baking With Your Little Ones; Safety and Tips to Taking Care of Thermal Burns

This weekend I plan on doing a little baking with my daughter. We are going to make cookies for her friends at playschool. My daughter loves getting involved in the kitchen which usually means I have to be super vigilent about keeping an eye on her.

I think the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house. It’s the room with the most appliances, utensils and where most of us keep the cleaning materials. For our cookie making masterclass this weekend we will be using the oven for baking and this is why I am going to be talking a little more about thermal burns in children. Of course children can also sustain chemical and electrical burns in the kitchen but for this blog I will only be looking at thermal injuries.

Thermal burns can occur from hot liquids, hot solids or flames. According to the WHO, burns are the “fifth most common cause of non-fatal childhood injuries” worldwide. However in South Africa things are a little more frightening. In children 1 to 4 years of age, thermal injury is the second most common cause of mortality, with toddlers and boys being at highest risk.

CLASSIFICATION  OF BURNS

Burns are no longer classified as first, second or third degree and are currently being described according to the depth of the burn.

  1. Superficial thickness – This burn involves only the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). Here you will only notice a reddening of the skin.
  2. Partial thickness – This is further classified into superficial or deep partial thickness. This burn involves the entire epidermis and parts of the dermis.
    1. Superficial partial thickness: appears red with blisters and is very painful.
    2. Deep partial thickness: looks waxy white with some areas of red, wet and blistered. This depth of burn may be less painful.
  3. Full thickness – This burn involves the entire epidermis and the entire dermis. The skin looks white and leathery. There is no pain as the nerve endings in the skin have all been damaged. However, surrounding areas of partial thickness burns will be painful.
  4. Fourth degree – This is the deepest type of burn where there is damage to the structures underlying the skin such as the muscles and bones.

Full thickness and fourth degree burns almost always require surgical intervention and skin grafting. Some deep partial thickness burns may also require surgical management.

HOW TO TREAT A COOKING BURN

Act FAST: A child’s skin will burn much faster than adult skin.

The longer a burn remains open, the more likely it will get infected so get it covered as quickly as possible.

  1. Remove your child from the source of the burn.
  2. Remove any clothing near the affected area to expose the wound. Don’t try to remove anything that is stuck to the burn.
  3. Place affected area under cool running water for up to 20 minutes. Do this as soon as possible to prevent any further thermal injury.
  4. Pat dry gently with a clean cloth or gauze.
  5. You can now apply a burn gel if you have one (if you don’t have this proceed to the next step). This will help cool the wound but should only be used short-term. Remove after a few hours and wash away any excess gel left on the wound with cool running water, then gently pat area dry.
  6. Cover the wound loosely with a dry, sterile non-adherent dressing.

WHAT ABOUT BLISTERS?

It’s important to leave blisters alone. You can apply a burn gel over a blister. Just be careful when you rinse the wound of the gel once you remove it that you don’t rub too hard, as the skin on top is very thin. Cover the blistered wound with a dry dressing.

If the blister has popped the underlying skin is raw and exposed and at increased risk of infection. It is now even more important to keep the wound clean.  There is new evidence to suggest that you can now cover the wound with a wet dressing until it heals provided you regularly wash the area and keep the dressings clean.

You can read more in one of my previous blogs https://www.oneaid.co.za/picking-scabs-popping-blisters/

BUTTER, TOOTHPASTE AND TURMERIC

I have seen patients put all kinds of things on their burns. Superficial burns require nothing more than initial cooling, a dry dressing and some painkillers. If there are blisters you can manage the wound as described above. Applying home remedies can do more harm than good.

Antibiotic ointments for prophylaxis (prevention of infection) are an issue of debate. Many specialists don’t advocate their use as they can cause antibiotic resistance if the wound were to get infected. 

GO TO THE ER!

  • Any burn, regardless of depth, bigger than the palm of your child’s hand;
  • Any burn, regardless of size, deeper than a superficial partial thickness burn;
  • Any burn, regardless of size, involving the head and neck, hands, feet, groin and joints;
  • Circumferential burns of any size around the chest, abdomen or a limb; and/or
  • When there was a risk of inhalation burns

SAFEGUARD YOUR KITCHEN AGAINST BURNS

Burns are preventable!

  • Make sure appliances that contain hot liquids such as kettles and slow cookers as well as hotplates are kept out of reach.
  • Make sure that electrical cords of these appliances are also out of reach. Exploring children can pull on the cords as well as trip over them if they are lying on the floor. I read about an incident where a young child tripped over a cord pulling a slow cooker and all the hot contents over her. She sustained serious full thickness burns over most of her body.
  • Use the furthest burner on the stovetop and keep pot handles turned away towards the back.
  • Don’t mix hot liquids in a blender as the contents can explode out onto whoever is standing nearby.
  • Be careful of long hair and loose clothing, which can catch on fire.
  • Keep paper towels, dishcloths and oven mitts away from the stovetop as they can catch on fire.
  • Keep chemicals and other flammables such as paraffin locked away at all times https://www.oneaid.co.za/10-essential-tips-to-prevent-poisoning-in-your-home/
  • If you have little children running around you should never take your eye off the kitchen if you still have something cooking.

Cooking with your kids can be so much fun. It’s hands on and a great form of ‘messy play’. It’s also a great way to get your children to explore new flavours. I find that if my daughter has been involved in the prepping of her meal she is much more likely to eat it. Next time why don’t you let your toddler better their motor skills by cracking open some eggs or measuring out some flour.

RESOURCES:

https://consumer.healthday.com/general-health-information-16/burn-health-news-87/kitchen-cooking-burns-a-real-danger-for-kids-713976.html

http://www.firechildren.org/index2.asp?include=fireburns.htm&catID=4

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3187951/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3500004/

http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/burns

https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/national-burns-week-2016

Does Your Child Need a Tetanus Shot or Not?

I’ve had parents often come into the emergency room after their child has taken a tumble asking for a Tetanus vaccine, which is why I felt the need to write a post explaining what Tetanus is and why we need to vaccinate our kids.

WHAT IS TETANUS?

Tetanus is a disease commonly known as lockjaw. It is caused by the bacteria, Clostridium tetani and can be fatal. The toxin from the bacteria affects the nervous system and causes severe painful muscle spasms, which can interfere with the ability to breathe. Currently there is no cure for Tetanus and treatment is mainly symptomatic until the effects of the toxin wear off. Complete recovery can take up to several months.

WHERE IS THE BACTERIA FOUND?

Clostridial spores can be found everywhere. They are found in soil, dust and animal faeces (including humans). Once the spores enter a wound they grow into mature bacteria, which produce the powerful toxin. Clostridium tetani is found worldwide.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF TETANUS?

Signs and symptoms of tetanus can appear anytime from a few days to a few weeks from infection:

  • Spasms and stiffness of jaw muscles (hence the name lockjaw);
  • Spasms and stiffness of the neck muscles;
  • Difficulty swallowing;
  • Spasms and stiffness of other body muscles, commonly the abdominal muscles;
  • Other constitutional symptoms such as fever, sweating and palpitations.

TETANUS VACCINATION

I won’t go into too much detail regarding the various combination vaccines as there are many and every country has its own recommendations. A copy of the latest South African immunisation schedule can be downloaded from my resources page. The WHO recommends an initial 6-dose schedule to achieve tetanus immunity.

1. Primary vaccination

Three primary doses of the vaccine are recommended in childhood starting from 6 weeks.

2. Booster vaccination

Three booster doses are recommended prior to adolescence. Booster vaccines are then recommended every 10 years thereafter.

TETANUS-PRONE WOUND

  • This is any wound that has been contaminated with material that could contain tetanus spores;
  • This is any wound that is deep;
  • This is any wound that is dirty;
  • This is any wound that contains a foreign body.

Note: any wound can be tetanus-prone – cuts, scrapes, burns, animal (including human) and insect bites.

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

It is recommended you see a doctor if:

  • Your child has a tetanus-prone wound and has not had a booster vaccine in the last 5 years;
  • Your child has a minor, clean wound and has not had a booster vaccine in the last 10 years;
  • Your child has a wound and you cannot remember when their last booster vaccine was.

RESOURCES

CDC (2018) Tetanus. [online]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/tetanus.html#contraindications [Accessed 30 August 2018].

WHO (2018) Tetanus vaccines: WHO position paper, February 2017 – Recommendations. Vaccine. [online] 36 (25). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2017.02.034 [Accessed 30 August 2018].

WHO (2018) Tetanus. [online]. http://www.who.int/ith/vaccines/tetanus/en/ [Accessed 30 August 2018].

Picking Scabs & Popping Blisters

I remember my mother telling me when I was a little girl that I shouldn’t pick my scabs because it would cause scarring. Now it is believed that the scabs themselves actually cause more scarring and the recommended treatment of skin wounds has moved away from dry healing towards moist healing.

What is dry healing?

This is when a wound is left open to dry out or it’s simply covered with a dressing. This method allows a hard scab to form over the wound on the outside. It was thought that the scab protected the damaged skin underneath and would eventually fall off once the skin defect had healed. The scab was also meant to protect the wound from infection.

What is moist healing?

This is when an ointment is applied to a wound and it is covered with a dressing. It has been proven that epithelialisation (formation of new skin) happens much faster in a moist environment when compared to dry one. Leaving a wound to dry out allows the new skin cells that are trying to grow and cover the skin defect to dry out and die resulting in more inflammation. This causes further pain, slows down the healing process and leads to more scarring. Previous beliefs that a moist dressing resulted in infection have not been proven.

When should you apply a moist dressing?

You should provide a moist, but not too wet, environment for cuts, scrapes and burns. Small cuts and scrapes that have already scabbed can be left open.

What is a blister?

A blister is a pocket of fluid collection within the superficial layers of the skin. They can develop when the skin is damaged by friction, extreme temperature (hot and cold) or certain chemicals that come in contact with the skin. The fluid acts as a barrier protecting the injured tissue underneath so it can heal.

How to treat a blister

Do not pop a blister! The blister protects the underlying skin from infection. The fluid within the blister also contains proteins that help promote healing. As the skin underneath heals the fluid in the blister disappears and the skin peels off. It is best to keep the blister covered with a dry dressing to avoid it getting scraped or torn open. If the blister does burst open, clean the wound gently without pulling off any skin, and apply a moist dressing.

How to clean a wound and apply a moist dressing

  1. Clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water or a hand disinfectant.
  2. Put on disposable gloves if available.
  3. If the wound is bleeding, stop bleeding by applying pressure with a clean gauze, bandage or cloth.
  4. Rinse the wound under running water for 10 minutes. Use a gauze pad or cloth soaked in water to gently wipe the wound and surrounding skin of any dirt and debris.
  5. Gently pat wound dry using a clean gauze or cloth. Do not use cotton wool as the fluff may stick to the wound.
  6. Apply a topical ointment such as petroleum jelly or equivalent. A thin layer of an antiseptic cream such as Cetrimide can also be used if the wound is at risk of infection.
  7. Cover the wound with a sterile dressing such as a non-adherent pad and bandage or a plaster.
  8. Clean the wound daily with running water and reapply a new moist dressing until the wound has healed.

Moist Healing plasters

Many brands have developed plasters that are designed to keep wounds moist without having to apply a topical ointment. These dressings provide a moist environment by absorbing and retaining fluid from the actual wound. Some of these plasters do not need to be changed daily. Make sure to read the directions on the box before applying your plaster.

As our little ones explore this world there is no doubt you will have to deal with many cuts and scrapes and even though wound healing is individualised most minor wounds will heal well with no complications if looked after from the very beginning.

RESOURCES

Elastoplast, (2018). 4 Reasons for Moist Wound Healing. [online] Available at: https://www.elastoplast.com.au/first-aid/wound-care/moist-wound-healing [Accessed 21 August 2018].

Field, C.K. & Kerstein, M.D. (1994). Overview of wound healing in a moist environment. The American Journal of Surgery, [online] 167 (1), pp. S2-S6. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/0002-9610(94)90002-7 [Accessed 21 August 2018].

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