Keep it covered, let it breath or should it scab over?

I like to think of wounds like Goldilocks.  They like an environment that is “just right.”  The wound surface has to be slightly moist to provide enough moisture for the healing cells, also known as white blood cells, to work on the wound but not too much that they are swept away.  Too much drainage or moisture will lead to the healing cells to flow in the fluid off the wound surface and will lead to moisture damage around the wound.  Similar to how your fingers wrinkle and the skin is fragile when submerged in the bath too long, the skin around a overly wet wound will start to break down. 

The wound also cannot be too dry.  Letting a cut “scab over” is not a great plan either.  The wound needs some moisture for the cells to function.  The “scab” that we see is actually those healing cells that have shrivelled up and dried out.  Often when the scab is removed the wound beneath is healed. 

So, next time you have a wound,  cleanse it gently with soap and water and then apply a bandaid.  No antibiotic ointment is needed unless the injury was a dirty one.  The white portion of a bandaid should provide a nice environment for that wound to heal! If it doesn’t, you know who to call!

Jenna Wishnew Dr Wishnew is a Board Certified General Surgeon practicing in the North Texas area She specializes in general surgery, gastroparesis, wound care, vein concerns and robotic surgery.

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