Accidents happen at home all the time. From a burn on the stove to a cut while chopping veggies, to a fall off a bicycle… They’re impossible to predict, but they’re almost certain to happen at one time or another.
One of the biggest problems around small home accidents is that a lot of us don’t know what to do, or how to treat the injury. When is it okay to treat a wound at home, and when is it better to go to the hospital? Which of the countless conflicting pieces of advice on the internet should you follow when it comes to burns and cuts?
Dr Judey Pretorius, a renowned biomedical scientist and founder of Biomedical Emporium skincare, sheds some light on how to react in various home accident scenarios to ensure a wound is treated correctly, heals quickly and leaves behind minimal scarring:
Burns and scalds
Burns and scalds are very common in South Africa and may be minor, healing quickly by itself, to very serious, requiring advanced medical care. Burns are caused by dry heat (for example by an iron, hair straightener or stovetop) and scalds are caused by wet heat (for example boiling water or steam).
Burns are classified as follows:
Superficial: Formerly known as a first-degree burn, this is when the burn affects only the epidermis (surface layer of skin).
Partial thickness: Formerly known as a second-degree burn, and affects both the epidermis and the dermis (second layer of skin).
Full thickness: Formerly known as a third degree burn, this type of burn destroys the epidermis and dermis and may also damage the underlying muscles, bones or tendons.
Superficial burns can be treated at home, as can most partial-thickness burns, but if you suspect a full-thickness burn, go to the emergency room immediately.
First aid steps to treat a burn or scald:
- Get the person away from the heat source;
- Remove clothing or jewellery that is near the burn site, but do not remove anything stuck to the skin;
- Cool the burn with cool or lukewarm running water for 20 minutes. Do not use ice, iced water, or any creams or greasy substances;
- Cover the burn site by placing a layer of cling film over it;
- If necessary, take painkillers to alleviate discomfort.
Seek medical attention if:
- The burn was caused by a chemical or electrical source;
- The burn site is larger than the size of your hand;
- The burnt skin appears charred or white.
Cuts and scrapes
Cuts most commonly occur in the kitchen, and can be superficial or deep, while scrapes often occur during activities, such as falling from a bicycle, while running or when slipping.
First aid steps to treat a cut or scrape:
- Rinse the site with cool water to remove any dirt or debris;
- To stop bleeding, gently apply firm pressure on the cut with a clean cloth or gauze;
- Once the bleeding has subsided and the wound is clean, cover it with a bandage or gauze pad and tape;
- Be sure to change the dressing or bandage every day.
Seek medical attention if:
- The cut is deep;
- The site bleeds heavily;
- Something is embedded in the cut;
- The cut was caused by something rusty or very dirty.
Insect bites and stings
Most of us are exposed to a variety of different insects all year round, many of which may bite or sting us. Some stings are uncomfortable but minor (like a sting by a mosquito), while others may be dangerous (such as certain spider bites).
First aid steps to treat a mild reaction from a bite or sting:
- Move to a safe area where no more bites/stings can occur;
- If any stingers have been left behind in the skin, gently remove them;
- Gently wash the area with soap and water;
- Apply a cold dampened cloth (you can fill it with ice to make it extra effective) and hold it on the area for 10 to 20 minutes to reduce swelling and pain;
- If the bite or sting is on the arm or leg, raise it;
- If the area is very itchy, take an antihistamine to reduce irritation, and if it is very painful, take a painkiller to alleviate some discomfort.
Seek medical attention if:
- You develop trouble breathing;
- You feel dizzy or faint;
- You develop nausea, vomiting or diarrhea;
- Your pulse becomes weak or rapid;
- You experience swelling to the face, lips or throat.
Wound care to minimise or prevent scarring
When skin has been damaged, it repairs itself by growing new tissue to pull together the wound or fill in gaps caused by the accident. This new tissue that grows is called scar tissue, and primarily consists of the protein collagen. Scars may develop in all shapes and sizes (accident-dependent) and some may fade over time to become almost invisible, while others may remain noticeable and or unsightly.
One of the best ways to ensure minimal scarring is to use the correct wound care products from the get-go. Dr Judey developed the ground-breaking Biomedical Emporium Wound Occlusive to help speed up wound healing, reduce pain, stimulate growth of wound tissues, deodorise and minimise scarring.
Biomedical Wound Occlusive is a hydrogel that comprises 50% honey, which is known for its antimicrobial action and inhibition of bacterial growth. It is an effective treatment for burns, post-surgical wounds, pressure sores, diabetic wounds and lower leg ulcers.
In addition to honey, it contains a diverse range of ingredients that work actively to achieve and contribute to therapeutic outcomes:
Zinc oxide – Increased wound healing, decreased rates of infection and decreased rates of deterioration of ulcers;
- Lactic acid – Increases wound healing though a variety of mechanisms;
- Vitamin B – Accelerated wound closure, consequently wound healing;
- Vitamin E – Fat-soluble antioxidant, used to accelerate wound healing and prevent hypertrophic scarring;
- Lidocaine – Local anaesthetic, used in a low concentration to assist in pain management;
- Chlorhexidine – Contributes to the antimicrobial properties of the Wound Occlusive;
- Xylitol – Acts as anti-biofilm, consequently inhibiting biofilm formation of dangerous strains bacteria;
- Hyaluronic Acid – Regulates or is involved in tissue repair process on multiple levels (inflammation, granulation and re-epithelialization), and modulates the hydration and osmotic balance.
The benefits of using Wound Occlusive include:
- Aesthetic healing;
- Natural debriding properties;
- Antiseptic, antimicrobial, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties;
- Enhancer of skin elasticity and restorer of density;
- Promoter of rehydration, biodegradable, and beneficial for all types of skin disease.
- Wound Occlusive can be applied directly to burns, scalds, wounds etc. twice a day to aid the healing process and improve the skin’s aesthetics.