Even minor cuts can become infected if they are left untreated. Any break in the skin can let bacteria enter the body. An increasing number of bacterial skin infections are resistant to antibiotic medicines. These infections can spread throughout the body.
But taking good care of any injury that breaks the skin can help prevent an infection.
Medical experts say the first step in treating a wound is to use clean water. Lake or ocean water should not be used. To clean the area around the wound, experts suggest using a clean cloth and soap. They say there is no need to use products like hydrogen peroxide or iodine.
It is important to remove all dirt and other material from the wound. After the wound is clean, use a small amount of antibiotic ointment or cream. Studies have shown that these medicated products can aid in healing. They also help to keep the surface of the wound from becoming dry. Finally, cover the cut with a clean bandage while it heals. Change the bandage daily and keep the wound clean.
As the wound heals, inspect for signs of infection including increased pain, redness and fluid around the cut. A high body temperature is also a sign of infection. If a wound seems infected, let the victim rest. Physical activity can spread the infection. If there are signs of infection, seek help from a doctor or other skilled medical provider.
For larger wounds, or in case bleeding does not stop quickly, use direct pressure. Place a clean piece of cloth on the area and hold it firmly in place until the bleeding stops or medical help arrives.
Direct pressure should be kept on a wound for about twenty minutes. Do not remove the cloth if the blood drips through it. Instead, put another cloth on top and continue pressure. Use more pressure if the bleeding has not stopped after twenty minutes. Deep cuts usually require immediate attention from trained medical providers.
Doctors suggest getting a tetanus vaccination every ten years. A tetanus booster shot may be required if a wound is deep or dirty.
To learn more about first aid, contact a hospital or local organization like a Red Cross or Red Crescent society. There may be training programs offered in your area.
And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Brianna Blake. For more health information, go to voaspecialenglish.com to download transcripts and MP3s of our reports. Wishing you a safe and healthy New Year, I'm Steve Ember.