There are different types of wounds. It is important to differentiate between them, as the management differs. Appropriate management of wounds is crucial in order to prevent complications, which can easily occur in our environment due to the weather condition, mainly high humidity.
Let us start with the classifications of wounds. Non-penetrating wounds are wounds that result from blunt traumas or friction with other surfaces. These types of wounds do not break through the skin, they include the following:
- Abrasions: scraping of the outer skin layer.
- Lacerations: a tear-like wound.
- Contusions: swollen bruises due to accumulation of blood & dead cells under skin.
- Concussions: damage to the underlying organs & tissue on head with no significant external wound.
Penetrating wounds on the other hand results from trauma that cause a break through the full thickness of skin, reaching to underlying tissues & organs. They include the following:
- Stab wounds: trauma from sharp objects, such as knives.
- Skin cuts.
- Surgical wounds: intentional cuts in the skin to perform surgical procedures.
- Gunshot wounds: resulting from firearms.
There is a third group of wounds that we call miscellaneous wounds. They include the following:
- Thermal wounds: extreme temperatures, either hot/cold.
- Chemical wounds: these result from contact with or inhalation of chemical materials.
- Bites/stings: can be from humans, dogs, bats, rodents, snakes, scorpions, spiders & ticks.
- Electrical wounds: these usually present with superficial burn-like or sting-like wounds secondary to the passage of high-voltage electrical currents through the body, to even severe internal damage.
What are the most common complications of wounds & how can we recognize them?
The most common wound complications are:
- Infections: wound infection presents with pus drainage, foul odor, fever, dull throbbing pain, mild swelling & warmth at wound site.
- Inflammation: inflamed wounds are hot, red, painful, swollen & hard to move.
- Scarring: regenerated cells have different characteristics & fibrous tissue that can heal the wound, leaving a scar behind.
- Loss of function: many wounds can be disabling & life threatening if a major organ, blood vessel or nerve was damaged.
What can you do directly when you have a wound?
Minor cuts & scrapes usually do not require a trip to the emergency room, it is important to stop the bleeding:
- Usually bleeding stops spontaneously.
- If not, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage.
- Hold the pressure continuously for 20 to 30 minutes & if possible elevate the wound.
- Do not keep checking to see if the bleeding has stopped because this may damage or dislodge the clot that is forming & cause bleeding to resume.
- If blood spurts or continues flowing after continuous pressure, especially if you take medications that make the blood thin, seek medical assistance.
Cleaning the wound is also essential, especially if the wound is contaminated with dirt:
- Rinse out the wound with clear water.
- To clean the area around the wound, use soap & a washcloth.
- If dirt or debris remains in the wound after washing, use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove the particles.
- If debris still remains, see your doctor immediately
Cover the wound:
- Bandages help keep the wound clean & keep harmful bacteria out in the first period as indicated by the doctor.
- After the advice of your doctor, exposure to the air will speed wound healing.
After the wound care from your doctor, it is significant to change the dressing:
- Change the dressing at least daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty.
- If you are allergic to the adhesive used in most bandages, switch to adhesive-free dressings or sterile gauze held in place with paper tape, gauze roll or a loosely applied elastic bandage.
Your doctor may advice stitches for deep wounds:
- If the wound is more than approximately 6 mm deep or is gaping or jagged edged or has fat or muscle protruding.
- This is essential as proper closure within a few hours reduces the risk of infection.
Always keep watching for signs of infection:
- See your doctor if the wound is not healing or by any redness, increasing pain, drainage, warmth or swelling.
Get a tetanus shot:
- It is recommended to get a tetanus shot every 10 years.
- If wound is deep or dirty & your last shot was more than 5 years it is also recommended.