7 Wound Care Myths

When it comes to the health industry, there are hundreds of myths that people believe and follow. They come from old wives tales that your grandma ingrained in your head, old hypothesis that the media still claims as fact, or just an idea that spread on the internet and you pinned on your Pinterest board.

Wherever they came from, it's time to get some of them straight. Here are 7 myths about wound care and healing small cuts that you believe.

Disclaimer: This site and article is not offering or recommending medical advice or treatment. If you have a concern or wound that you are worried about, see your healthcare provider for more information.

Myth 1: Disinfect Your Wound with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the most used disinfectants in America. As soon as many people get a cut or abrasion, their first step is to throw some hydrogen peroxide on the area and watch the white bubbles fizzle.  There’s almost no pain, it’s satisfying to watch, and it’s helping the wound heal…right? 

Wound specialist Dr. Walter Keller says that “hydrogen peroxide bubbling releases pure oxygen, which kills bacteria but also the healthy cells, slowing down the wound healing.” The more often you use hydrogen peroxide on your wound, the more new and healthy cells you are risking damaging, which will slow down the healing process. 

The best way to clean a small cut or wound is with running water and soap or a saline solution. Rinse the wound for at least five minutes to remove dirt, debris, germs, and bacteria. Avoid scrubbing with a rag as it can increase the spread of germs and bacteria, and make sure that your hands are clean before touching the area. Larger, deep wound should be treated by a doctor or healthcare provider. 

Myth 2: Disinfect Your Wound with Rubbing Alcohol

Alcohol is another common solution for cleaning out wounds, and just like hydrogen peroxide, you risk damaging healthy cells when you use it. The alcohol burns your skin immediately, which is how most skin cells are damaged.

Yes, it can cause some tissue damage. But that burning and stinging must be signs that it is destroying germs and bacteria then?!?

It is true that rubbing alcohol can help minimize germ and bacteria activity, but studies have shown that alcohol isn’t any better than tap water to clean out a wound. Your safest bet is to just use soap and water to clean out a wound so that you don't risk slowing down the healing process.

Myth 3: Let Your Wound Breathe

The idea that wounds and cuts heal better when exposed to air is a common misbelief that puts you at risk from germs, infection, and the environment. Your skin acts as a barrier from disease, bacteria, and debris. By “letting your wound breathe” you are just making yourself susceptible to these elements. It is important to keep your cut as clean, germ-free and protected as possible by putting a bandage on it. 

On top of that, moist skin heals faster than dry skin. The blood vessels heal faster and inflammation rates are lower in bandaged wounds over wounds that have been allowed to dry out. Cells have a hard time functioning in a dry environment so keeping your skin covered and not letting it dry out promotes faster healing. 

Myth 4: Scabs are Part of the Healing Process

Many people misinterpret scabbing as a sign of healing and part of the way the human body heals. The assumption is that a scab is a hard layer of skin cells that protects the body until new skin cells develop. 

It is true that a scab is one of the ways that the body protect itself. However, a scab is a layer of dead skin cells and hardened fluid that results in the wound drying out too quickly. It’s a defense against a poorly cared for injury and slows down the healing processing by ridding the wound of necessary moisture and causing a barrier for new skin cells. 

A scab creates a wedge between broken skin, forcing a larger healing area and more chance of scarring. The wound time is greater as skin cells must work under the scab to heal the wound. The scab can also trap inflammatory tissue and bacteria in the wound, which leads to a greater chance of infection. 

Myth 5: Rip Off Your Bandaid for Less Pain

Everyone has heard the phrase “rip it off like a bandaid.” The idea is simple: it’s going to hurt less if you just take it off in one quick rip. The problem with this idea is that you risk tearing away surrounding tissue that is weak, tearing off more skin, or reopening the wound. 

To remove a bandage or bandaid, slowly pull it off in the direction of natural hair growth. If it is sticking or difficult to remove, dab the edges with warm water or baby oil to remove the bandage easier. 

As for removing gauze or other bandages, check out Advance Tissue’s page where they talk about how to remove wound care products when changing dressings: 


Myth 6: The Deeper the Wound, the More It Hurts

Our bodies are triggered to associate pain with injury. This is why most people assume that the worse the pain, the worse injury must be. 

However, think about the last time you got a paper cut. That small, shallow wound probably made you curse and whine more than when you sliced your finger with a kitchen knife.

This is because most of your sensitive nerve fibers are located in the epidermis (top layer of skin). These nerves have low thresholds of pain since they are used to give us the sense of pressure, heat, and touch.

Nerves deeper in your flesh send signals to the brain that is closer to a throbbing pain when there is a cut or stab due to less nerves in the area and the nerves still being protected more than shallow cuts. This is why superficial abrasions, burns, and shallow cuts often cause more pain than deeper puncture wounds or cuts.

You shouldn’t judge how severe your injury is on pain alone. Look at how deep it is, the loss of blood, and location. Any deep wounds or cuts that bleed severely should be seen by a healthcare provider.

Myth 7: You Should Offload an Ulcer or Pressure Sore with a “Donut”

Ulcers (or pressure sores) are one of the top three types of most common chronic wounds. A chronic wound is a wound that takes longer to heal and usually requires outside treatment to heal.

One of the reasons that ulcers, bed sores, and pressure sores are so likely to become a chronic wound wi because your body naturally puts pressure on the areas where the wound formed (that's why you got one there). To offset this pressure, many people and drug stores claim that a doughnut cushion will help relieve the pressure and distribute the weight. 

It is true that a “donut” can help offset pressure, but it rarely evenly distributes the weight.  As Dr. Andrew J. Applewhite says, “A donut cushion, while removing the direct pressure, does not evenly distribute the pressure and can create an ‘edge effect,’ essentially strangulating the wound and starving the skin from oxygen.” Bad circulation is a very common reason that people develop chronic wounds and with a donut you risk just that. 

Thanks for reading!