No matter how careful you try to be as you go through life, minor cuts, scrapes, bruises and sometimes even more serious wounds do happen. When the injury occurs on your feet, heels or ankles, it can be especially painful and hard to heal. That’s why proper care and treatment for a foot wound from the very moment it occurs is very important to ensure proper healing.
As a podiatrist with Westchester Health, I’ve noticed over the years that many people lack a good working knowledge of how to care for wounds that need immediate attention but are not serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. To help rectify that, I’ve put together some guidelines that explain what to do in case you do sustain an injury to the foot, ankle or lower leg.
9 first aid tips for proper wound care
First and foremost, before treating any kind of wound or burn, WASH YOUR HANDS. In addition, wear disposable protective gloves, if possible.
Next, follow these 9 tips to avoid infection and promote healing.
1. A little blood is good
Blood helps clean a wound, so a little bleeding is actually beneficial. Most small cuts and scrapes stop bleeding fairly quickly on their own, but you can help the process by applying firm, gentle pressure to the site with a sterile gauze, towel or tissue. If blood soaks through the wrapping, add another layer of gauze or tissue on top. Do not remove the original dressing or you may pull open the wound and start the bleeding again.
2. Clean wounds right away
For any cut or scrape, the first thing to do is clean the wound with cool water. Remove any gravel or splinters with alcohol-sterilized tweezers. Gently wash around the wound with soap and a washcloth. Do not use iodine, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide— just soap and water.
3. Apply antibiotic cream
Antibiotic creams and ointments not only keep wounds moist but they can also reduce the risk of infection. Apply a thin layer on the wound, but if a rash develops, discontinue use.
4. Cover with a bandage
If your wound will be rubbed by clothing or shoes, cover it with a bandage. An uncovered cut or scrape is at risk of reopening or developing an infection. What often works best is to cover the wound with gauze, then wrap a fabric bandage over and around that to prevent bacteria from coming in contact with the wound. Change the bandage daily.
5. Watch for signs of adhesive or latex allergy
If you feel itchiness or burning under your bandage, you may have an allergy to the adhesive used in some bandages. If this happens, try switching to sterile gauze and paper tape or an adhesive-free dressing.
6. Healing begins almost immediately
Almost as soon as you sustain a wound injury, your body begins the healing process. White blood cells attack infection-causing bacteria. Platelets, red blood cells and fibrin create a jelly-like clot over the wound, enabling a protective scab to form.
7. Treating minor burns
The best treatment for a minor burn is to cool the area right away with a cold cloth or cool water to keep the skin from retaining the heat and continuing to burn. After cooling it to stop the burning process, wash the burned area with soap and water and dress it lightly. Leave blisters alone and do not pop them; they help protect the skin as it heals.
8. Look for signs of infection
If redness spreads out from the injury site, if there is swelling, if green or yellow fluid is emerging from the wound, or if the area around the wound is warm or tender, you may have an infection. Other signs include body aches, chills, fever and/or swollen lymph nodes at your neck, armpit or groin. If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
9. See a doctor right away if your wound:
- won’t stop bleeding after 5-10 minutes of pressure
- is deeper or longer than a half-inch
- is near the eye
- is gaping or ragged
- was caused by something dirty or rusty
- has dirt or gravel stuck in it
- is very painful
- shows signs of infection
- was caused by an animal or human bite
- includes a broken or fractured bone
- if you aren’t sure if you’re up to date on your tetanus vaccine
First aid tools everyone should have
Since you never know when you or something around you will sustain a minor or major injury, it’s a good idea to keep these first aid items handy:
- hydrocortisone cream
- hand sanitizer
- sterile gloves
- pain relievers
- gauze and tape
- antiseptic wipes
- antibiotic cream
- antihistamines for allergic reactions
If you’ve been injured and are concerned about the wound
If you’ve sustained a cut, scrape or something more serious and want to know if it’s healing correctly, make an appointment to come see me at one of my Westchester Health offices. I’ll examine the wound, evaluate the overall condition of your feet, and together with you, determine the best course of treatment to bring about proper healing.