After 40 years, you’d think I would have learned how to shave without leaving a piece of my face under the razor. And when I consider the cuts and scrapes that appear out of no where on my fingers and hands, I realize that someone in my family is always shouting for a bandage. During their routine check-ups, patients are constantly showing me kneecap scabs where they embarassingly tripped on a curb, or the shin recently scraped against a coffee table, or the long scratches left by an annoyed cat. In other words, whether we’re 7 or 70, we’ll always be victims to wounds of the flesh. Our WholeHealth Chicago recommendations will not help you become more coordinated, or more adept with sharp objects, but instead we offer a few simple ways to ease the pain and speed up the healing the next time you scratch, scrape, slice, or dice yourself.
What are Cuts and Scrapes?
Cuts and scrapes are injuries that penetrate the outer layer of skin. A cut pierces or slices the skin, while a scrape abrades the surface. Most minor cuts and scrapes will heal on their own, usually within a week to 10 days. Because the skin serves as a protective barrier against germs, however, even minor cuts and scrapes can leave the body vulnerable to infection. A few simple precautions will reduce the risk of infection and speed up the healing process.
If a cut is deep or if the skin has been punctured–such as by a nail, knife, or other sharp object–medical attention should be sought immediately.
- Narrow slices or tears in the skin that usually bleed
- Superficial skin abrasions that show redness or bleeding
What Causes Cuts and Scrapes?
Cuts are typically caused by an encounter with a sharp object–a knife, razor blade, piece of glass or metal, even the edge of a sheet of paper. Scrapes usually result from a fall or other type of accident, as friction against a rough surface rubs away some of the skin.
Treatment and Prevention
For minor cuts and scrapes, there are a number of topical supplements that relieve the pain, prevent infection, promote healing, and reduce the risk of scarring. Don’t rely on these if you have a large cut or a puncture wound, however, or if there are signs of infection. Such cases require medical attention.
How Supplements Can Help
When the bleeding has stopped and the wound has been cleansed, apply lavender oil or tea tree oil cream, both of which promote healing and guard against infection. Or you can dab on a tincture of echinacea, marigold, or myrrh (diluted in water).
After you apply supplements, bandage the wound. Each time you change the dressing–three or four times a day–spread some aloe vera gel or calendula cream over the wound and bandage lightly.
Everyday for five days after the injury, take vitamin A, vitamin C, and bromelain (an enzyme derived from pineapple). Also, drink tea made with the herbs echinacea and goldenseal. Taken together, all of these supplements will boost the immune system and speed up the healing process.
Stopping bleeding is the first order of business–unless the injury is a puncture wound. Let a puncture wound bleed freely for several minutes to allow germs to be flushed out. If necessary, press gently around the wound to encourage it to bleed. For minor cuts and scrapes, apply steady pressure for several minutes, using a clean cloth or tissue. If blood soaks through, apply another layer of cloth or tissue and additional pressure. If possible, elevate the injured part above the heart to slow blood flow.
Thoroughly cleanse the area around the injury by swabbing it gently with a clean, wet cloth, or holding it under cold running water. If the surrounding area is dirty, clean it with a mild soap, but keep the soap out of the wound to avoid irritation. If necessary, remove any particles of dirt from the wound with a pair of clean tweezers dipped in alcohol.
If you can’t wash the wound, then lick it. A study in the prestigious journal Lancet found that saliva contains a number of substances that can help kill bacteria and promote healing.
Bandage the wound with a sterile dressing, especially if it’s in a place likely to get dirty or further injured, such as a hand, foot, or knee. Change the dressing frequently, but don’t leave it on for more than a couple of days. Exposure to the air will reduce the risk of infection and speed up healing.
Never pick at a scab no matter how good it feels–this could lead to infection or scarring. Simply let the scab fall off after the skin has healed.
Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly as a substitute for antiseptics and antibiotic ointments.
When to Call a Doctor
- If you have a puncture wound, especially in the head, neck, chest, or abdomen
- If blood spurts out or bleeding cannot be stopped
- If you get a dirty cut, scrape, or puncture wound and haven’t had a tetanus shot–or can’t recall getting one–in the past 10 years
- If the cut is deep, large, or has not closed
- If the cut or scrape is dirty and can’t be cleaned, or if the dirt can’t be seen
- If there are slivers of glass or fragments of metal in the wound
- If there are any signs of infection–pus, swelling, fever, red streaks radiating from the injury
- If the cut or laceration is on your face–you may want to have the wound sutured by a plastic surgeon in order to reduce scarring.
From David Edelberg, M.D. at WholeHealth Chicago: Topical supplements help soothe pain, speed healing, stave off infection, and reduce scarring. However, they’re only for minor cuts and scrapes. Large wounds that don’t close or cuts that are infected need medical attention.
How to Take the Supplements
After you carefully clean the cut and the bleeding stops, rub lavender oil gently on the wound to kill germs and promote healing. You can use tea tree oil cream or calendula cream as a worthy substitute; both help to fight infection, and they reduce scarring. Another option is to try the liquid extract form of echinacea, diluted with a little water.
After this first aid, bandage the cut or scrape and change the dressing once or twice a day. Each time, apply either aloe vera gel or calendula cream to the cut to diminish inflammation, stop infection, and promote healing.
Take the oral supplements together for five days after the accident. Vitamin A and vitamin C act as anti-inflammatories and speed healing. (If you’re taking our suggestions for a basic daily nutritional program–which includes a high-potency multivitamin and good antioxidant complex–the extra supplements are probably unnecessary.)
The pineapple enzyme bromelain has similar anti-inflammatory properties. Taking some extra echinacea orally supports your immune system to prevent a local infection.
Sip some soothing herbal teas. Those made with echinacea and goldenseal, for instance, help bolster immunity and fight infection.
Grow your own aloe vera plant. Then, whenever you have a minor cut or scrape, break off a leaf, slice it down the middle to reveal the clear, cool aloe vera gel, and dab the gel over the wounded area. Repeat two to three times a day until healed. Important:
We at WholeHealth Chicago strongly recommend that everyone take a high-potency multivitamin/mineral and well-balanced antioxidant complex every day. It may be necessary to adjust the dosages outlined below to account for your own daily vitamin regimen. All of our supplement recommendations also assume you are eating a healthful diet.
Be aware that certain cautions are associated with taking individual supplements, especially if you have other medical conditions and/or you’re taking medications. Key cautions are given in the listing below, but you need to see the WholeHealth Chicago Reference Library for a comprehensive discussion of each supplement’s cautions and drug/nutrient interactions.
For product recommendations and orders click here for the Natural Apothecary or call 773-296-6700 ext. 2001.