Hydrogen peroxide has many uses, and while some people do still insist on using it during first aid for a cut, there are a few things you should know about it. Hydrogen peroxide does kill the germs and any bacteria that have accumulated in the cut, but it also kills the white blood cells that have accumulated in the wound, which are a portion of the cells in your blood which fight off infection. Hydrogen peroxide also has been found to actually damage the tissue surrounding the cut, because it is so potent. A better choice for flushing out a wound would be normal saline, boiled/distilled water, or just regular tap water.
Neosporin, while it does not harm anything in the wound like peroxide does, can present long term issues. I once had a patient that came in with a bad infection, and the doctor prescribed Neomycin by mouth. The patient took it for a few days but didn’t seem to get any better. His temperature remained elevated, and his arm wound still had redness, edema, and irritation arond the wound site. We later found out that the reason the neomycin wasn’t working was because his body had built up an immunity to neomycin because he had been using neosporin on cuts for so many years. After many years of taking any antibiotic, your body can get so used to the medication that it builds up an immunity to the drug and your body no longer responds to it. It’s the same concept that has brought about a massive change in the way doctors treat children. When I was young, when you went in to the doctor for a cough or cold,the doctor gave you a little pink bottle of amoxicillin regardless of whether or not you had an infection “just in case.” Doctors are now much more careful about only giving antibiotics to children that truly have an infection. Neomycin is the active ingredient in neosporin ointment. A better choice for ointment for a wound is either Neo-To-Go which is a spray form of neosporin that doesn’t contain neomycin despite the same trade name, polysporin ointment, which has the same ingredients as neosporin without the neomycin additive, or simple vaseline ointment.
So with all of that knowledge out there, lets look at some basic first aid tips for wound care. First, always assess the depth of the wound. If it looks deep, such as a puncture wound, always err on the side of caution and let a docor take a look at the wound as it may require sutures. If it does look like a wound that will heal without suturing, first be sure to clean the wound thoroughly. The best choice to rinse with would be saline if you have it around (contact solution), if you don't have any around, simple distilled or tap water will work just fine. Make sure that any debris that has found its way into the wound is removed. Next you may wish to cleanse the wound further with something such as Hibiclens or Betadine (povidone-iodine) solution. After allowing the wound to dry, you may wish to apply polysporin, vaseline, or Neo-To-Go spray, and then either a bandaid or gauze with tape. For wounds with edges that need to be pulled together in order to heal, purchase some steri-strips (eBay) to pull the edges together prior to placing a band aid or gauze over the cut. Always remember to let your wound dry out and get some fresh air each day, and be sure to change your gauze or bandaid daily. And as always, if you cut yourself on a rusted or heavily soiled object, be sure to get a tetanus shot if yours is not up to date.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or email@example.com.