Want to know to heal open wounds faster? Learn about the benefits of rapid healing, how to prevent infections, reduce swelling and pain, and prevent a scar (or reduce the risk on excessive scar tissue creation. Also some myths are dispelled.
These wound care tips are based on case studies and clinical trials. A substantial part is about the use of honey in wound care.
Types of Open Wounds
A wound is when the skin is torn, cut (incisions), rugged (lacerations), grazed (abrasions) or punctured. In order to determine which treatment is recommended for a certain type of open wound it is useful to be able to describe the type of wound.
Wikipedia’s open wound type classification by object that caused the wound.
- Incisions or incised wounds: caused by a sharp-edged object such as a knife or a glass splinter
- Lacerations: irregular tear-like wounds caused by blunt trauma. The term laceration is commonly misused in reference to incisions
- Abrasions (grazes): superficial wounds in which the topmost layer of the skin (epidermis) is scraped off. Often caused by a sliding fall onto a rough surface
- Puncture wounds: caused by an object puncturing the skin, such as a nail or needle
- Penetration wounds: caused by an object such as a knife entering the body
- Gunshot wounds: caused by a bullet or similar projectile driving into or through the body.
How To Clean an Open Wound
The first step in treating an open wound is to properly clean it. This is important because if not cleaned well a wound will heal not heal as fast, is prone to get infected and subsequently will have a bigger chance on scar development.
Here are some basic initial wound care steps which will prevent the chance on infection:
- Rinse the wound with salt water, a very mild soap or Saline . You can make the saline yourself. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in about half a liter of boiled water.
- It’s best not to use an antiseptic such as Dettol or Savlon but if you do make sure to dilute it well. Many times antiseptics can harm delicate skin cells thus delaying wound healing.
- It’s best to remove loose skin or scabs as these delay the healing process and harbor infection.
- Use dry dressings for cuts lacerations and for covering Steristrips
- Use paraffin gauze for open wounds, ulcers and burns.
- Use Povidine-iodine solution to clean scrapes and grazes.
The primary rule here is: don’t clean a wound with something you wouldn’t put in your eye.
How To Heal Open Wounds Faster? Keep Wounds Moist.
Scientific research has shown that a moist healing environment is beneficial for wound healing. Wounds heal 50% faster if kept moist (Winter, 1962)
Moist wounds enhance the regrowth of new skin (epithelialisation). Other studies have shown that a moist wound prevents tissue dehydration and cell death.
The cells in a to the air exposed wound will dry out and die. This dead tissue, often mixed with gauze pad fibers will lead to more wound pain, chance on infections and as a result scarring.
Why covering wounds?
Necrotic tissue and slough in a wound prevent healing.
An epitheliasing wound is a wound that is forming a film of new cells. ( the beginning of a crust) When a wound is left uncovered this new epithelium dries out and forms a scab or a crust. This is not desirable because crusting slows down wound healing and is a major factor in scar creation.
If you keep a wound moist it will heal faster due to promotion of epithelialization
Dr. George D. Winter’s wound care study showed that the regrowth of skin over a wound (epithelialization) was twice as fast in those wounds covered with a film dressing.
Wounds that were kept moist healed in approximately 12 to 15 days while the same wound when exposed to the air healed in about 25 to 30 days.
“Despite the theoretic risk that a moist environment is associated with a higher risk of wound infection, studies have shown that occlusive dressings do not increase the incidence of infection.”
source: Hutchinson J. Prevalence of wound infection under occlusive dressings: a collected survey of reported research. Wounds 1989;1:123-33.
“Moisture prevents the formation of a hard scab, which acts as a barrier to the development of new tissue,”
source: dermatologist Bruce Katz, M.D., associate clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The Myth: Exposing a Wound to Air makes it Heal Better
“Exposing a wound to the air so it can breathe is a terrible mistake, experts say, because it creates a dry environment that promotes cell death.”
“Another common mistake is applying antibiotic ointments, said Dr. Mark D. P. Davis, a professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
These ointments may keep the wound moist, he said, but they can also lead to swelling and an allergic reaction called contact dermatitis.”
Read the whole article on the website of the New York Times
Heal Wounds Faster with Vaseline
Vaseline (petroleum jelly) not only keeps wounds clean and moist but also provides an occlusive layer, thus keeps the wound covered. It keeps germs out decreasing the risk on infection. Apart from that it hydrates the wound stimulating the healing process.
If you have tried it once yourself you will probably have noticed the wound scabs far less. Normally the creation of a scab is accompanied by a little inflammation. The skin surrounding the wound is a little bit pink or red colored and raised. Also itch resulting in scratching the scab off is not desirable. When using Vaseline the wound will scab less and the new skin will be less raised (or not at all) and with less discolorization.
Vaseline, being a non-irritating product, also soothes minor scrapes and burns (also sunburns).
Heal Wounds Faster with Vitamin C Supplements
The intake of vitamin C supplements results in several wound healing benefits.
“As a plastic surgeon, I put all my patients on post-operative vitamin C because you need vitamin C to heal. I also recommend it to boxers following a fight,”
“In fact, I’d recommend 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C to anyone with an open wound because there is evidence that it helps them heal faster.”
says Michael A. Fiorillo, MD, a New York City area plastic surgeon who serves as a spokesman for the AAPRP (American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians ) Source: WebMD
The role of vitamin C in wound healing and surgery recovery has been reviewed in the medical literature since 1937, when two Harvard Medical School surgeons published an article in a medical journal about vitamin C deficiency and wound healing.
Besides vitamin C some additional supplements are known to improve the wound healing process and stimulate surgical healing.
Wound Care with Honey
“In ancient history the Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans all used honey, in combination with herbs and on its own, to treat wounds” (Zumla and Lulat,1989).
Since the dawn of mankind honey has been used effectively in wound care. In the beginning of the 20th century this ancient natural remedy has been replaced by antibiotics. But when a growing amount of bacteria tends develop resistance against antibiotics honey is being rediscovered as a medicine. The promising outcome of scientific research conducted by e.g. the Waikato University New Zealand adds to this development.
Honey provides a protective barrier defending the wound against infections and the tissue growth is not slowed down by drying.* source: Waikato Honey Research Unit(case studies and clinical reports on honey as a wound healing agent by the Waikato University)
Especially Manuka honey, a honey with unique antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal properties and powerful moisturizing aspects, has proven to be a very effective wound care product.
A disadvantage of many dressings that create a moist environment is that the moist conditions stimulate the growth of bacteria. That’s why some of these products are not recommended for use on infected wounds. But manuka honey creates a moist environment in which bacterial growth is prevented by the antibacterial activity of the honey.
The antimicrobial properties of honey prevent microbial growth in the moist healing environment created. Unlike other topical antiseptics, honey causes no tissue damage: in animal studies it has been demonstrated that it actually promotes the healing process. It makes direct contact with the wound’s surface but the dressing does not stick, so there is no pain or tissue damage when dressings are removed.
Honey promotes a moist wound environment by drawing lymph into the wound through osmosis and preventing dressings from adhering to the wound bed.
Medical grade (sterilized by gamma irradiation) manuka honey, marketed as Medihoney dressings, has shown to effectively treat various types of wounds. The benefits of honey as a wound care agent are versatile:
- Honey provides a moist healing environment.
- Unlike many other topical antiseptics honey causes no tissue damage.
- Honey makes direct contact with the wound’s surface but the dressing does not stick, so there is no pain or tissue damage when dressings are removed.
- Honey prevents wounds from infections and is effective in fighting infections and around 60 species of bacteria.
- Antimicrobial properties prevent new microbial growth.
- Quickly reduces swelling, inflammation and pain
- Clears infections rapidly
- honey is more effective than silver sulfadiazine and a polyurethane film dressing (OpSite®) for the treatment of burns.
- Promotes rapid healing with minimal scarring
- Stimulates tissue healing. The acidity of honey might be the cause of the stimulation of the healing process.
Clinical trials show infections being cleared rapidly, inflammation, swelling and pain are quickly reduced, sloughing of necrotic tissue is generated, granulation and epithelialisation are hastened, and healing occurs rapidly with minimal scarring.
Honey is more effective than silver sulfadiazine (Thermazene 1% Silver Sulfadiazine Cream ) and a polyurethane film dressing (Opsite®) for the treatment of burns.
Manuka honey is proven to be effective where conventional modern therapeutic agents like antibiotics are failing.
Open Wound Healed Miraculously
Kara Couch, a nurse practitioner at Georgetown University Hospital’s Center for Wound Healing in Washington, said manuka honey works well for patients who have “wound pain” or infected wounds.
One patient who had an open wound that didn’t heal for a few years “healed 90 percent in three weeks,” she said, adding that the usual rate for chronic wounds is barely 10 percent a week. Source: msnbc.com
Wounds That Won’t Heal: Non Healing Wound Cured With Honey
Minor burns, cuts and scrapes heal automatically in most healthy people. More severe wounds and wounds like diabetic ulcers are more difficult to heal. Sometimes a wound that won’t heal can be life threatening.
Maybe you already know the amazing story of Mr. Tom Lloyd who suffered from a wound that wouldn’t heal. With the use of honey the medical personnel prevented a seemingly inevitable leg amputation.
Medihoney: Pharmaceutical Grade Honey for Wound Care
New Zealand natural health products company Derma Sciences and stakeholder Comvita are owner of the Medihoney trademark. Comvita is the global leader in medical grade wound gels and dressings based on Manuka honey.
The Medihoney brand incorporates a range of medical grade wound treatment honey and honey dressing products that are in some cases proven * to be more effective than conventional medications. (Read about how Medihoney saved a man from leg amputation.)
Medical Manuka honey products manufactured by the company Derma Sciences, are the only FDA-cleared, honey-infused wound dressings on the American market. These Medihoney dressings are sterilized by gamma irradiation for safe use on open wounds.
Other companies, such as Honeymark, sell Manuka honey-based wound lotions and creams online. These products are less tightly regulated by the FDA.
* Extended information on honey as a wound dressing on the Waikato Honey Research Unit website
Medihoney wound dressings
Medihoney offers several FDA regulated wound care products such as Manuka honey wound ointments, gels, and wound dressings.
Medihoney wound dressings provide a moist environment that stimulates wound healing. They reduce the risk on and are known to effectively treat infections and have recently been approved by the FDA.
“These dressings are indicated for managing moderate to heavily exuding wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers, leg ulcers, pressure ulcers/sores, and first- and second-degree partial thickness burns, in addition to donor sites as well as traumatic and surgical wounds.”
These dressings are the first honey-based dressings to become available in the United States.
Iodex Topical Antiseptic Ointment
If you for any reason should not want to use Manuka honey as a wound care product Iodex will probably the best alternative.
Iodex feels like a gel, it doesn’t stain, takes out splinters, stops infections and generally speeds up the healing of cuts. Just put a dab on and throw a bandage over it. It doesn’t take much – A little bottle will be sufficient for many years.
Lee Pharmaceuticals Iodex, 1-Ounce Jar
Heal Open Wounds By Reducing Healing Barriers
Other factors that function as a wound healing barrier are; excessive pressure and stretching of the wound, high blood sugar, stress and anxiety, existence of necrotic (black dead) tissue, pain and nutritional deficits. Also boosting the gut flora by taking probiotics can aid the wound healing process. Since many bacteria and fungi exist both in and on the outside of the body an all round approach that spikes the immune system is helpful. So things to keep in mind are to relax and make sure to rest well, eat and live healthy and take care of problematic issues such as black tissue in a wound. For more info see How To Enhance Surgery Recovery.
How To Cover Open Wounds
Generally pads, gauzes and tapes are used to cover wounds. A major downside of using gauzes as a primary dressing is that they physically inhibit wound contraction. That’s why, for many wound types, other dressings are recommended.
- Cover the wound with a non-adhesive sterile dressing and make sure it is large enough to cover the surrounding area. (dressings that stick to the wound tend to slow the healing process.)
- Secondly cover the dressing with a gauze pad. This can be attached by using (silk) tape or with a roll of stretch gauze.
- Make sure to keep the outside of the dressing dry and clean. If it gets wet or dirty it is recommended to change it.
There are some dedicated wound care products available that offer something extra for people with delicate skin:
- Adaptic Pads (Johnson & Johnson)
These pads are non-adherent and petroleum saturated. They will keep draining wounds sterile, prevents the dressing from sticking to the wound and also helps to control bleeding / prevent pooling of wound fluid.
- 3M Micropore Paper Tape
People with delicate skin prone to develop rash (dermatitis) might benefit from this lightweight paper tape. It is hypoallergenic and leaves little or no residue. Silk tape also seems to be an option although I have used it myself and it did leave some glue residue.
- Medipore Soft Cloth Surgical Tape
Latex-free tape, offers excellent adhesion with reduced skin irritation.
- 3M Microfoam Tape
Elastic foam tape products designed to stretch and conform while providing secure adhesion.
- 3M Micropore Surgical Paper Tape 2″ x 10 yds. White – Box of 6
- “ADAPTIC Non-adhering Dressing–JNJ2012 (Box)–SizeA : 3 x 3″” StyleA : 1 strip/envelope”
Benefits of Wound Dressings: Covered Wounds Heal Better
According to the American Academy of Dermatology wound healing can be stimulated by using wound dressings. An abstract of one of their reports mentions:
“Almost all documented clinical experience shows that occlusively dressed wounds heal more quickly and with less pain, tenderness, and swelling than undressed wounds. Clinical experience with occlusive skin dressings on acute and chronic wounds, on diseased skin, and on normal skin is reviewed.”
Downsides and Side Effects of Antibiotic Wound Ointments
Topical antibiotic ointments like Neosporin (triple-antibiotic), Neomycin and Bacitracin can cause skin reactions and tissue damage with prolonged usage.
Many doctors recommend only 3 to 5 days of a topical antibiotic.
Wound Healing and Scars
Rapid wound closure is recommended. Research has shown that when wound closure (epithelization) is delayed beyond 10-4 days the chance of developing hypertrophic scars goes up dramatically.
Burn Care with Honey
The first step in case of a minor burn is to cool the affected area. This will stop the tissue from heating any further. Its best to use cold running water (not too cold) and not ice because ice will freeze the flesh. Cooling the burn will conduct the heat away from the tissue thus reducing swelling.
Then apply honey on the burn. Use a modest quantity of honey. The burn should be saturated but it should not be overdone.
Then cover the burn and honey with a gauze or patch. Make sure to regularly change the gauze and keep on eye on possible infections. Burns tend to get infected rather quickly but with the use of manuka honey this risk is reduced significantly. For more severe burns medical manuka honey based dressings can be used. They do not stick to the wound thus reducing pain with changing the dressings.
7 Heal Open Wounds Tips
- Never use cotton wound gauze dressings directly on an open wound. This material will not prevent bacterial contamination and will leave cotton fibers in the wound. Walsh and Ford 1989; Jones, 2006).
- In case a dressing does stick to the wound it can be moistened (soaked) with a little saline or warm water.
- Change wound dressings at least every 24 hours. But sometimes dressings need to be changed more often, up to three times a day.
- Avoid too much pressure on the wound. Abrupt or intense movements will delay wound healing.
- Wounds that tend to reopen and start bleeding again (despite soaking the pad) should better be left uncovered.
- Wash your hands with water and soap before and after changing the dressing.
- When washing or bathing do not use hot water. It dries out the skin. Use warm water instead.
How a Wound Heals Video
The wound healing process explained.
For those interested here’s an in depth explanation about the wound healing process. The video addresses the: hemostasis phase which purpose is to control bleeding,the inflammatory phase (swelling, heat, redness and pain), Scar tissue formation (granulation, contraction, epitheliazation,) and the wound maturation phase.
Why do Wounds Itch When they are Healing?
Itchiness is actually some sort of pain that is inherent to the healing process. The nerves and biological processes are working to heal the wound. It has something to do with histamine.
A wound that is itching is healing. Most important is not to scratch it because this will delay the healing process.
Propolis Ointment for Wound Care: Does It Work?
Propolis or bee glue is is a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. (source Wikipedia) It is used by the bees to close small gaps in the hive. It is used as a seal to strengthen the hive structure and at the same time keep hazardous elements such as bacteria and larger organisms out.
Propolis literally means “defender of the city” and originates from the Greek words, “pro,” meaning “in defense of” and “polis,” meaning city.
Propolis is thought to have several health benefits such as a sore throat remedy, stimulating heart health, and boosting the immune system. It is commonly thought propolis is an effective wound, burn and infections treatment. Although the results of some studies done are promising more, thorough research has to be done. Research does show propolis has antiseptic and antibiotic properties and may also have anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects.
How To Heal Open Wounds Faster FAQ
Q: What is the best way to heal from a wound?
A: The best way is by keeping it clean and moist. Don’t let it dry because the cells need a moist environment. Wounds that won’t heal optimally can be treated with medical grade honey.
Q: How do you know if a wound is infected?
A: Signs of infection are redness and inflammation around the wound, a bad odor coming from the wound or a red streak traveling from the wound.
Have a Question? Want to share experiences? Drop your comment below.