How to treat cuts and grazes

The vast majority of the time sport and exercise is fun and enjoyable, where you can walk away at the end of the day with nothing but a smile on your face. But sometimes, accidents happen. We all fall over every now and then; and regular exercise can occasionally result in a bit of damage to our skin. But what is the best way to treat minor skin conditions?

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CLEAN IT UP

Cleaning your wound is the first thing you need to do. While this may cause a fair amount of pain to your already damaged skin, it is one of the most important steps in wound management. You will more than likely have a bit of dirt, gravel, or grass somewhere in your newly attained broken skin; this needs to be removed. If not, it will definitely delay the healing process; and will possibly lead to some sort of infection. Dead skin cells also need to be removed, as these can also slow the healing process.

Pressurised, sterile saline sprays exist which can be used to rinse any mess out of a wound. For many injuries, these types of spray do an okay job of cleaning; but for a much more effective method, you can jump in the shower and use a brush to scrub the debris away. Obviously, this will be much more painful, but it is going to be more effective.

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BE SURE TO PREVENT INFECTION

One of the biggest risks of a skin tear or abrasion is infection. While sometimes this cannot be avoided, it is always a good idea to try and stop infection coming on as best as you can.

The best thing you can do is apply an antiseptic skin preparation to your wound on a regular basis. There are many of these creams and ointments available on the market; some contain just an antiseptic, while others also have numbing agents or topical anti-inflammatories. If you go rummaging through your medicine cabinet and find an old tube which was first opened 10 years ago, it is probably a good idea to chuck it away and get a new one…..yours could be completely ineffective and possibly contaminated!

Keeping a close eye on your wound and seeking treatment when early signs of infection appear is also a good idea. If you notice any of the following signs, it is possible your wound has become infected and you should head straight to your doctor, as you will probably need a course of antibiotics.

  • Increasing redness and swelling around the wound (a small amount of redness is normal, but if it doesn’t calm down over time or expands, this is not a good sign)
  • Heat radiating from the wound site, or wound site is warm to the touch
  • Ongoing or increased pain (pain is normal with a wound, but it should gradually reduce and go away)
  • Coloured discharge (clear discharge is normal, but if it is cloudy, green or foul smelling, you probably have an infection)
  • Fever and tiredness (this could be a sign of a heavily infected wound)

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COVER IT UP

The old home remedy for treatment of cuts and grazes is to leave it uncovered, let it dry out and form a scab. Treating a wound this way is not the best option…….the healing process will be slowed; it leaves the wound open to infection; and increases the risk of scarring once the wound is healed.

Quite simply, keep your injury covered! Once you apply a bit of antiseptic cream, put a dressing over the wound. Sterile, water-proof, non-stick dressings are the best option. They will add a protective layer to help stop infection and further damage; help absorb any excess discharge; and keep the area moist. All up, this provides a good environment for your injury to heal faster. Just be sure to change your dressing on a regular basis!

DO IT YOURSELF

You don’t necessarily have to rush off to the emergency department for a bit of grazed skin……most cuts and grazes that occur as a result of a fall while exercising or playing sport can be fairly easily managed at home.

Sporting events will usually have a first aid officer on site. Have them look at your injury, they will be able to advise you how severe it is and if you need to seek further medical assistance. Alternatively, you can always head to your local pharmacy, where you will be able to obtain advice regarding antiseptic creams and wound dressing options.

CAN YOU STILL EXERCISE?

The simple answer to this question is….it depends. If your injury is on an area that is going to receive contact or irritation as a result of your exercise (for example, a cut on your palm if you are a netball player), it is best to put your feet up for a while. Likewise, if your injury is on an area of your body that is going to see a lot of flexing or stretching (such as your knees or elbows), this will also delay the healing process. Take it easy for a while.

However, if these things are not going to be an issue, it is still possible to do some gentle exercise while your wound heals. Light activity will increase blood flow, which can help with the healing process; and it can also help to boost your immune system to help prevent any infections occurring. But remember, light exercise….don’t overdo it!

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(this is an injury I sustained myself…..day of injury on the left, 8 days later on the right)

With the right treatment, cuts and grazes can heal nice and quickly, leaving you to get back out there sooner rather than later!

 

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