Warding off infection

April 18, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

Scrapes, cuts and burns not only can hurt, they can also open the door to infection. But there's a lot you can do to treat minor injuries yourself, without rushing to the doctor or the ER. When in doubt, or if your wound doesn't heal within a few weeks, call your doctor.

To treat cuts, punctures (such as when your skin is pierced by a narrow, sharp object) and scrapes, follow the four C's:

* Control bleeding: Apply direct pressure to stop bleeding with cuts and scrapes. With punctures, let the bleeding stop on its own (unless the bleeding is heavy).

* Clean the wound: Washing with warm water and soap kills germs and removes the dirt. Soak a minor puncture wound in warm, sudsy water for several minutes.

* Close the edges: With cuts, use a butterfly bandage.

* Cover the injury: Use antibiotic ointment. For a cut or scrape, use a sterile bandage or clean gauze (tape in place). Cover a minor puncture with gauze to absorb drainage.

To treat minor burns:

* Cool the burn immediately. Use cloths soaked in cool water, or place the burned area under a gentle stream of cool water or in a container of water.

* Minor burns can be treated like minor cuts or scrapes. Be sure to clean the burn and cover it with a loose dressing.

* Do not apply butter, oil or ointment. This only seals in the heat.

* Don't break blisters or pull off skin from a broken blister.

For anything more than a minor injury or burn, seek help.

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