A clean and moist environment is the best way for a wound to heal and ensure the skin returns to its original form Either most of you or your children have had wounds at some point or another. It is basic probability, right? It really doesn’t matter if you are cautious, and even if you are cautious parents, you may be tempted to keep their children in protective cages, but most of us cannot maintain these boundaries. When we hurt ourselves at any age we often hear a ton of advice regarding how we should get those wounds healed. The advice we hear most often is to expose the cut to the air so it can heal better.This advice has largely spread by word of mouth and has almost become a time honored tradition. Most people who believe this tradition do so for any number of reasons. Either they believe in the mechanism of this tradition, or they continue to spread the word as it is completely true. As I have always said, medicine is full of myths that have turned into traditions and this is one of them. You can hear justifications concerning this including some believing that airing out a wound reduces the likelihood of infection while others believe that drying the wound allows it to scab and will make the wound heal faster.Moreover, many also think there is actually something special about air, and letting the air get to the wound is good thing. Let’s rewind the tape and look into the real way to treat wounds. When you cut yourself or obtain a wound, your skin heals itself by growing new cells out from the edges of the cut toward each other. There is of course a special environment needed for these cells to grow toward each other, and that is a clean moist one. In fact, when the wound dries out, or a hard scab forms, it can become more difficult for these cells to get where they need to be. While it is not limited to this, but most of the time a hard scab can permanently force these cells into undesirable formations, thus resulting in scars that don’t look like the original form of the area of skin.

Drying out wounds by exposing them to air is a myth and ironically, wounds need exactly what many people have been claiming was harmful. A clean and moist environment is the best way for a wound to heal and ensure the skin returns to its original form. There are lots of studies published advocating that this is the most effective way. In a study published back in 1991 in the Journal of Surgery Research, researchers described 92 wounds inflicted on four piglets. The researchers treated these wounds with eight different preplanned dressing regimens. Contradictory to what many people have thought, they demonstrated that inert or dry bandages, such as dry gauze, extended the healing time of wounds. Another study published in 1995 in the Annals of Plastic Surgery have compared wet, moist and dry gauze dressing on pig wounds. They found that wet bandaged wounds healed two days faster than dry ones, and one day faster than moist ones. They also showed the additional benefit of moist or wet bandages.

This benefit was that they led to less necrosis (which means the death of tissue) and a better quality of healing. Obviously the limitation with the aforementioned studies is that they were p[performed on animal tissue, which although having incredible, is not the same as human tissue. If you aren’t convinced by the first two articles I shared with you then let’s look at a recently publ i s h e d study from 2008. This study was conducted on 20 humans. Surprisingly, just for research purposes, the subjects in this study allowed themselves to receive abrasions and were then given different types of bandages or no bandages at all. Wound-healing was checked on days 1, 3, 5, 7, 10 and 14 and were observed for contraction, color and luminance. They have all followed a standardized approach to wound-healing beside the regimen and have taken the study seriously. Another study has also shown that every kind of occlusive dressing which covers up the wound tightly has performed better than no dressing at all. Basically, just about anything that covers up the wound is literally better than leaving it open. Open means open to all, including infection.

Moreover, there are no studies that have ever showed increased infection rates if any type of medicinal dressing was applied. This literally asserts the fact that there’s no truth to the idea that drying out the wound is better in terms of preventing infection.

So from now on, when your mother or grandmother may tell you it’s a good idea to air out that cut or let it dry out, you know that there is scientifically enough evidence showing you should do exactly the opposite – that is you should cover wounds.

What about licking a wound?

Don’t try to hide it. We have all done this at some point in our lives. Maybe you have even sucked on a cut until it stopped bleeding. It may have seemed natural to you since we have all seen lots of animals do it. Do you think that it is really a good idea? Would animals use a water source to wash their wounds if they could rather than licking it? Humans obviously have better options to animals, such as water. However, this is not such a tall tale and there has actually been research that shows there are compounds in salvia that might aid healing. However, none of those studies endorse that you should lick a wound.

You should not use your mouth to clean a wound, because your mouth is not especially clean. The mouth is full of bacteria and licking a cut is an awesome way for germs to transfer to your cut. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported a case on a German man with diabetes who licked his thumb after a bicylce accident. Even though the wound of this man was a minor one at the beginning, his thumb became infected with Eikenella corrodens. This infection has ultimately ended with the amputation of his thumb. Although this is an extreme example, you should know that your mouth is not clean. Would you clean your wound with dirty toilet paper? So, don’t clean one with your dirty wet mouth.