What you're using might be slowing your wound healing

Picture of clean wound

Alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are well known wound cleaners.  You might remember that stinging burn from your mother pouring it on your cuts.  Hydrogen peroxide works by breaking apart bacterial cell walls.  In fact, hydrogen peroxide bubbles on wounds because of the oxygen released when the cell walls break.  Similarly, alcohol breaks down the proteins in the cells and causes them to die. Unfortunately, human cells are also affected by this action as well.  Unlike antibiotics that have a specific target, these antiseptics affect all cells similarly.  So once the wound is clean, continuing to use the alcohol and hydrogen peroxide actually repeatedly kills the very cells trying the heal the wound. 

Despite popular belief, just having a wound does not mean the wound is infected or dirty.  Wounds due to trauma, like falls, punctures or scrapes can be considered dirty and in need of cleaning. After cleaning the wound the first time, using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide shouldnt be necessary as the amount of dirt and bacteria should be much less.  If there is still concern for dirt or bacteria, soap and water is actually a more effective, and less detrimental, solution.  Soap and water cleansing works in a few ways.  First the action of rubbing the area to create suds,  breaks apart dirt, debris and bacteria to allow them to be washed away.  Second, soap mobilizes dirt so it cannot stick to the wound surface any longer.  Finally, the nature of soap ruptures cell walls of bacteria but is safe for your healing cells.  

If a wound appears to be highly draining, smelly, dirty or full of pus, think of seeing a wound doctor rather than just repeatedly cleaning. 

Its as simple as soap and water. 

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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