Scratches, wounds, burns, cuts... the way we care for these injuries can affect their ability to heal and encounter complications such as infection. However, there are certain practices to avoid to ensure faster healing. Here are the ten most common misconceptions about wound care that we believe to be true and continue to persist.
10 myths about wound healing.
- Myth No.1: A wound heals better when left exposed to the air
- Myth No. 2: Applying a bandage promotes the growth of germs
- Myth No. 3: The more you care for your wound, the smaller the scar will be
- Myth No. 4: Using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean and disinfect wounds
- Myth No.5: Minor wounds do not need to be treated
- Myth No. 6: Sea water accelerates the wound healing process
- Myth No. 7: The formation of a scab is a sign of good healing
- Myth No. 8: A wound needs to be kept dry
- Myth No. 9: Slow wound healing is normal
- Myth No. 10: Deeper wounds cause more pain
Myth No.1: A wound heals better when left exposed to the air.
On the contrary,the wound is exposed to external elements, increasing the risk of infection and therefore complications. Additionally, wounds that are exposed to air will form a scab, which makes the healing of a wound difficult. Under such conditions, new skin tissues will struggle to form, preventing the skin from healing. Finally, numerous scientific studies have shown that a wound heals much better and faster when it is covered with a dressing from the first day until its complete healing.
What to do?
After cleaning your wound with clear water, apply an appropriate dressing. This will help to create, maintain, and control a moist environment conducive to healing. Indeed, epidermal cells can migrate more easily, which accelerates epithelialization and granulation.
Myth No. 2: Applying a bandage promotes the growth of germs.
There is a common misconception that keeping a wound covered and moist will promote bacterial growth. Not only does a covered wound heal faster, but the dressing also prevents foreign bodies from entering, significantly reducing the risk of infection. That being said, wounds can also be too moist, which can pose a risk of tissue maceration. Indeed, an airtight dressing, such as a polyethylene film, will maintain a warm and moist environment on the wound surface and is not without risk of sepsis. The serous exudate (physiological fluid) can act as a suitable medium for bacterial proliferation. It is more advantageous for a gas exchange to occur between the wound surface and the external environment, thus limiting contamination by bacteria and foreign bodies.
What to do?
There are various types of dressings designed to help achieve optimal skin hydration to accelerate recovery. Opt for dressings made of micro-porous materials, semi-permeable to air and water vapor, and absorbent. They are mechanically protective, absorb excess exudate, and preserve moisture. Moreover, it is important that the materials of the dressings do not adhere to the wound surface, as the migrated epithelial cells may be torn off with each dressing change.
Myth No. 3: The more you care for your wound, the smaller the scar will be.
It's true! The way you care for your wound directly impacts its healing. If you don't take proper care of it, you can increase the risk of infection or complications. The use of non-adherent sterile dressings, antibiotic ointments, and physiological solutions will significantly enhance the wound healing process and facilitate healthy recovery. If you're unsure about how to care for your wound, discuss it with your doctor.
Myth No. 4: Using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean and disinfect wounds.
Alcohol and hydrogen peroxide (also known as oxygenated water) are very popular and commonly used solutions for disinfecting wounds and removing impurities. However, rubbing a wounded skin with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide can have drawbacks. While they have antiseptic properties, they can also potentially damage the surrounding healthy cells and tissues. They can also cause irritations and inflammations, as well as protein degradation. These solutions can therefore hinder the healing of wounds, particularly in the case of burns.
What to do?
Cleaning the wound is a crucial step for proper healing. The best approach is to clean any new wound with warm soapy water or a compress soaked in saline solution, from the center outwards, to remove dirt, blood, and debris cluttering the wound. After cleaning the wound, disinfect it to minimize the risk of infection. Opt for a broad-spectrum, non-irritating antiseptic, such as an iodine-based antiseptic or one formulated with hexamidine or chlorhexidine.
Myth No.5: Minor wounds do not need to be treated.
Small injuries also need to be treated, as they can become infected and cause medical issues if left untreated. They need to be properly cleaned and protected. Any type of cut is a potential entry point for bacteria and germs, so it is extremely important to treat and cover each wound.
Myth No. 6: Sea water accelerates the wound healing process.
It is common to hear, especially in the summer, that seawater would help a wound heal better, but this is a myth. In reality, the contact of a wound with salt water can cause the skin to swell, which will impact the closure of the wound, not to mention the high risk of infection it can cause, and irritation and delay in wound healing. Seawater has no sterilizing or healing virtues, and contains high amounts of microbes and impurities.
Myth No. 7: The formation of a scab is a sign of good healing.
Contrary to popular belief, scabs that form when wounds are left to dry in open air can actually hinder cellular growth and slow down the healing process. Scabs can also conceal inflamed tissues and bacteria, potentially leading to an infection, and increase the risk of scarring. If the wound is significant, it is advisable to consult a doctor periodically. Moreover, proper wound care can also reduce the risk of leaving an unsightly scar once the wound has healed.
What to do?
If a scab has formed, avoid scratching it to prevent reopening your wound, touching it, or attempting to conceal it with makeup. Instead, moisturize it with a cream to soften the scab and accelerate its natural shedding.
Myth No. 8: A wound needs to be kept dry.
While it may seem logical that keeping a wound dry would promote better healing, the reality is quite the opposite. Studies have shown that wet wounds heal two to three times faster than dry wounds. Apparently, for wounds to heal properly, they need a certain degree of moisture. Regular irrigation of a wound has several benefits that result in faster and higher quality healing: it reduces the formation of bedsores, it increases the migration and rapid re-epithelialization of keratinocytes on the wound surface, it promotes collagen synthesis by stimulating fibroblasts, it reduces inflammation, it minimizes the risk of scarring, and it promotes the autolysis of necrotic tissue in the wound. On the other hand, dry wounds can cause lesions, are more susceptible to infections, and result in longer healing times.
What to do?
To do this, consider applying a bit of topical antibiotic ointment or vaseline on the wound. Then cover it with an appropriate dressing to keep it clean, which should be changed at least once a day.
Myth No. 9: Slow wound healing is normal.
Far from it, a slow healing of a wound can be a symptom of a disease such as diabetes, indicating a weakened immune system or blood circulation problems. Therefore, it is important to have your wound checked by a doctor if you notice that the healing is taking longer than usual, even if you are treating it properly.
Myth No. 10: Deeper wounds cause more pain.
On the contrary! Superficial wounds are more painful, given that they affect the nerve endings located just beneath the upper layer of the epidermis. Therefore, everyday cuts, scratches, and scrapes require as much protection and care as larger or deeper wounds.
MAIBACH H. I. & al. Effect of air exposure and occlusion on experimental human skin wounds. Nature (1963).
ERIKSSON E. & al. Moist wound healing with commonly available dressings. Advances in Wound Care (2021).