Hopefully, you never get hurt or injured while out on an adventure. Honestly though, it is definitely a possibility this will occur. From a minor injury to something more serious, it’s always a good idea to know how to properly clean a wound. You can also check out some additional first aid tips here.
Before sealing up a wound or cut you will need to get it ready. Bandaging, stitching, or gluing a wound before taking the proper precautions and steps to clean it is never a good idea. This can seal in harmful bacteria or debris. This could definitely cause complications and infection.
Depending on where you are, what location, and what you have available around you these steps are going to differ. Treatment options are going to vary based on the supplies you may have and the environment around you. Even so, there are a few general rules to follow prior to getting cut.
Step 1: Check Out Your Environment
If you are sitting in your kitchen and slice open your finger while chopping onions, your reaction is going to be a bit different than if you cut open a finger while out in the wilderness surrounded by dirt, leaves, and the elements. Depending on what kind of environment you are in you may find yourself needed to take extra sterilization and cleaning precautions.
Step 2: Check Out Your Cut
Not all cuts are created equal. You will need to have a relatively good idea of how deep your wound is. The deeper the wound the more cautious you should be. Also, look for things such as additional lacerations around the main wound. Are there scrapes? Are there multiple areas affected or just one main cut?
Step 3: Check for Debris
Although this step is also encompassed in the previous step, it’s important to note that while looking over your wound you should be taking notice of the type of injury as well as what may be inside or near your injury. Look closely for dirt, mud, foreign objects, or other debris. Keep in mind that not all will be visible to the human eye.
Many of us, when we get a cut or laceration, immediately think to cover it and “fix it” as quickly as possible. This can be dangerous because if you are not removing any foreign items or contaminants before repairing the injury.
Step 4 (optional): Irrigate
This particular step is necessary if you cannot clearly see the wound or if there are foreign objects or contaminants in it. As I previously said, not all debris is visible to the human eye and it may be difficult to be sure if there is any on the wound. Some factors to keep in mind are how large the wound is, how much blood there is masking any debris, and how deep is the wound. Once you are aware of these factors you can make a better judgment on if irrigation is necessary.
The quickest and most effective way to do this is to use clean water, a mild soap, or a sterile solution. However, if the wound is not deep, and it is clear to you that there is no debris in or around the injury this step may not be needed.
Step 5: Remove Any Debris
It’s probably pretty obvious that if you do see debris or foreign objects in the wound or around the wound, they should be removed. They may have already been removed if you did the irrigation step prior. If not, use tweezers that have been sterilized. This is why it’s a good idea to always have a first aid kit on you.
In order to help coax any debris out of the cut, you can squeeze the edges of the wound to pinch them and help bring the debris to the surface.
IF you happen to notice that something is embedded in the skin, you should be aware that removing it is most likely going to increase blood flow in that area. If you have someone to help you, they can be irritating while you attempt to remove any necessary objects. Continue to irrigate if necessary to be sure you have removed as much debris as you can.
Using your fingers to remove something is not always a good idea. Let’s assume you have not properly sterilized your hands. You now may be contaminating the wound even further by using your fingers to remove something. You may also, since fingers cannot be as precise, make the wound larger or more inflamed.
If you are unable to remove something that should not be there you should not seal up the injury. Instead, you will want to add packing material around the object as much as possible without applying pressure to it. Do not seal up the wound as this can push the foreign object deeper. Head to an emergency room or other medical center to have it removed.
Step 6: Sterilize
After you’ve cleaned the wound and removed any foreign objects you should use a mild soap or a sterilizer (such as saline solution) and apply pressure in order to get the wound ready to seal. You can close it by using bandages, sutures (aka stitches), super glue, etc. Depending on the wound you may choose a different kind of sealing measure. If you’re unsure, go with whatever you feel most comfortable using and head to the doctor or emergency room when you can,
Once you go through these steps you should head to a medical site to have things looked over or cleaned up. You’ll want to be sure that you do not get any more debris in the wound and be sure it doesn’t get infected.