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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tips for Effective Wound Care

Everyone deals with bumps and bruises from time to time, but when does a minor scratch become major? Is there a difference between a cut and a scratch? Does that even matter? This post covers various wounds, general care and what to watch out for, and might help prepare you for the next time you have a minor, or even major, accident or surgery that leaves a wound.

Types of wounds
In general, there are five different kinds of wounds: abrasions, contusions, incisions, lacerations and punctures.

Abrasions occur when the top layer of skin is rubbed or scraped off. Think of a friction burn from sliding across carpet or skinning your knee from falling outside.

Contusions occur from blunt force trauma and don’t break the skin. Think of a normal, everyday bruise. There are three different kinds of contusions: subcutaneous, which are surface bruises; muscular, which can occur on or within a muscle; or periosteal, also known as a bone bruise.

Incisions are neat and clean cuts to the skin from a sharp object. Think of a cut from a knife, glass or another sharp object. The key here is it’s a smooth, clean cut and the edges of the wound are not rough and jagged. While incisions can be a result of an accidental cut, this is most common after a planned surgical procedure.

Lacerations are similar to an incision in that the skin is cut or torn open. The big difference is the edges of the wound are rough and jagged. This makes a difference when it comes to caring for the wound.

Puncture wounds occur when something pokes through the surface of the skin. Think of an animal bite, stepping on a nail or even receiving a shot.

General Care
Although most of these wounds are somewhat similar, they do require slightly different care than simply applying a bandage and calling it a day.

Always start by cleaning an abrasion with clean running water, allowing the flow of the water to clear away any debris in the wound. Exercise caution when trying to remove anything lodged in the wound such as gravel or hair, as this may further aggravate the wound. Once the wound is clean, apply an antibacterial ointment and cover with a non-stick bandage or pad.

For a contusion, keep R.I.C.E. in mind: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate. Make sure not to wrap the contusion too tightly, which can cut off your circulation. If necessary, take an over-the-counter pain reliever like aspirin or ibuprofen to help with pain, inflammation and swelling.

Incisions, lacerations and punctures can be treated in much the same way: clean the area, apply antibacterial ointment to aid the healing process, and cover with a bandage to keep it clean and free of debris.

Further Treatment
Go to an urgent care clinic or emergency room for further treatment for any of the following reasons:
  • The wound won’t stop bleeding
  • It is large and/or deep
  • It may require stitches
  • It may be contaminated by a foreign substance
  • The wound has something embedded in it
  • It shows signs of infection (swelling, redness, oozing, etc.)
  • You notice any other issues or troubling symptoms

Of course, if you have an emergency situation, call 911 for further help.

Hopefully, this will help you the next time you get a minor or major wound.

If you’re looking for more information on Mohs surgery or post-surgical wound care, download our wound care recommendations:

Have any other questions regarding wound care? Visit our website or post your questions in the comments below, and I’ll try to help you out!


  1. These are some great tips! I've always been told to use vaseline and duoderm for aftercare to speed the healing, as well.

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  2. Wound care is especially critical to those with diabetes. As a girlfriend of a diabetic for five years, I have discovered that their wounds heal much slower than those who don't have the condition. His doctor recommended that we use a special medihoney wound dressing to promote faster and more effective healing. It produced great results for him!

  3. These are great tips, but what do you mean by non-stick bandages or pads? I thought it would be important to have something stay in place to speed up the healing process. I always use tegaderm dressing for wounds because I find it easy to keep in place and I like that it comes off easily when I need it to.

    1. Hi Ann, non-stick meaning not a Band-Aid or other sticky bandage. Some sort of dressing that you can wrap around the wound is good!

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  6. I didn't know that different types of wounds required different treatments. I always just treated my bruises like any other injury. I guess a band aid isn't always the best solution.
    Jayden Eden |

  7. I really like your tips on when you should see a doctor for further treatment of a wound. My husband fell and got a puncture wound in his elbow. He tried self care measures but it doesn't seem to be healing. It seems like he should see a medical professional for help treating the wound.

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  10. Wow what a brilliantly you just described about wound care ......i really enjoyed and appreciate for wonderful sharing with us. keep it up.

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