Proper bleeding is among the many widespread wound care myths.

When it comes to proper wound care, there are a number of myths that have developed over the years. For instance, some people incorrectly believe that butter can heal small burns, or that scabs are a sign a wound is healing, which is not always the case. All of these may seem like harmless wives’ tales, but they can actually do real harm to patients, impeding their wound healing process and costing these individuals untold pain and discomfort, money and, of course, time and effort. Here then are four more fables of effective wound management:

  1. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for a wound to heal
    Actually, the time of total wound closure is quite important. On the one hand, everyone is unique, and that means people heal at completely different rates. However, if your wound has yet to close past a certain point that may be an indication of a more serious underlying condition, according to a report published in the Journal of Dental Research. That includes a diminished immune system, diabetes mellitus or issues with blood circulation. There are a host of other reasons why your wound might not properly heal, namely poor nutrition, a smoking habit or certain medications you take. The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggested seeing your doctor if the wound hasn’t begun to heal on its own within two weeks.
  2. Saltwater can help heal wounds faster
    This very notion has existed for hundreds of years, dating back to humanity’s earliest seafaring voyages across the Atlantic. To most people, saltwater seems like an optimal choice for wound cleaning, as the inherent minerals act as a kind of all-natural debridement agent. However, as Wound Care Society noted, saltwater contains other particulates beyond salt– specifically, dozens of kinds of bacteria. While some strains are helpful, others can actually cause substantial damage. According to the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, some coastal saltwater features 100 strains of the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus, including those that cause cholera. Of course, there is also little data to support that salt is an effective debridement agent. In fact, according to a 2006 study published in the Chinese Journal of Burns, saltwater can increase inflammation and impede wound healing.
  3. Bleeding means the wound is healing
    Once again, that’s not necessarily true for all cases. As the Wound Care Education Institute pointed out, when many doctors or caregivers see blood, they’ll immediately ask the cause of the bleed. For instance, there could be some kind of trauma or underlying condition, like a basic clotting disorder, causing the extraneous bleeding. In some cases, the entire problem might stem from the dressing sticking to the wound and preventing the wound from closing all the way. Of course, some bleeding is actually a good thing. In his book “Practical Plastic Surgery,” Dr. Mark Sisco explained that bleeding can be a sign that the tissue is alive and healing. However, only your doctor will know what an acceptable level of bleeding is for the wound.
  4. You can use only saline to clean wounds
    For years, doctors have relied on saline in most wound debridement procedures. According to Medscape, saline has become so common because it has the lowest number of side effects, including level of toxicity. Meanwhile, the journal Wound Care Advisor explained that saline also won’t interfere with the wound healing process. More recently, an increasing amount of doctors have begun to change their thinking, and standard tap water has become an acceptable substitute for saline. According to a 2013 study published in the journal BMJ Open, there is no difference in the rate of infection between saline and tap water. Plus, tap water is less expensive. According to a presentation at a 2014 conference of the American College of Emergency Physicians, using saline can result in a total estimated savings of $65 million per year between major hospitals in the U.S.

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