The human body is really very good at arranging its own repairs when minor damage has been done (I am assuming that medical advice will be sought for major wounds). When you cut yourself the blood you lose helps wash dirt and germs away from the wound. Within a few minutes the blood in the wound will clot and form a hard protective scab; any dirt and debris left inside the scab will be cleared up by scavenging white blood cells. The hard scab will remain in place, as a protective shield, until the skin underneath has been repaired.
All this goes on without any outside interference. The body’s natural defence mechanisms work more effectively when the wound is left exposed to the air. If occlusive dressings are put over small wounds the skin becomes soft and soggy and is more likely to harbour infection. Antiseptic ointments and creams are unlikely to help speed up healing and they may actually interfere with and delay natural protective processes.
Cleaning a wound
Antiseptics and disinfectants are substances that either destroy microorganisms or inhibit their growth. Ordinary substances available for home use will kill off a small proportion of the organisms which have permanently or temporarily taken up residence on the skin but they will leave many more alive and well. It is the body’s own defence mechanisms which provide the most effective protection.
The best way that you can help your body is simply to wash any damaged skin with clean, running cold water. If you scrub at the wound gently you will remove dirt, hair, superficial bacteria and dead skin and prepare the area for natural healing. Removing dirt is the most important thing you can do to speed up natural healing. Once the affected area has been washed with ordinary clean water, washing it with a salt solution may help prevent infection.
The advantage of liquid antiseptics is that they can be used to help wash a wound clean but they do not leave a greasy smear behind to interfere with normal healing processes. The two biggest-selling liquid antiseptics are probably TCP ‘Liquid Antiseptic and Dettol, although there is also a Savion Antiseptic Liquid.