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5 Ways to Naturally Care for a Laceration (Plus, When to See a Doctor)

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Laceration - Dr. Axe

If you’ve ever lacerated your skin, you’re already familiar with how unpleasant this occurrence can be, especially if the wound was deep. You may have had bleeding, pain, bruising, swelling or all of the above.

Lacerations come in all shapes and sizes and some require urgent medical attention while others can be managed with basic home wound care.

Whether you’re dealing with a laceration that was severe or minor, you’re about to learn some effective natural ways you can boost healing and avoid infection, which are the two most important things you want to do after sustaining any type of wound.

This article will include answers to common questions, such as:

  • What is the difference between a cut and a laceration?
  • How do you treat a laceration?
  • When should you seek medical attention for a laceration?

What Is a Laceration?

To simply define laceration, it is a tearing or deep cut of the skin that causes an irregular wound. Lacerations can occur anywhere on the body. For example, a corneal laceration is a partial or full cut on the cornea of the eye. A laceration can often contain debris or bacteria from whatever caused the injury.

With minor lacerations, there is a small amount of tissue damage, and infections are not common. On the other hand, severe lacerations, also called full-thickness lacerations, can injure further than the full thickness of the skin into underlying muscles, internal organs and even bone. As you may expect, pain and bleeding can be intense with full-thickness lacerations.

How long does it take a laceration to heal? It all depends on the severity. A very minor laceration can heal in a matter of days, while a more severe laceration can take weeks or months to completely heal.

Laceration vs. Cut vs. Abrasion vs. Puncture Wound

When you say the word “wound,” you may be referring to several different subcategories of skin injuries including lacerations, cuts, abrasions or puncture wounds. So what’s the difference between all of these?

As you now know, a key characteristic of a laceration is that the skin tears, resulting in an irregular wound. What about an abrasion? A common abrasion definition: an injury caused by something that rubs or scrapes against the skin. The friction or scraping that causes an abrasion separates the skin, but it doesn’t actually result in pieces of skin missing from the body.

A cut, another very common injury, is a skin opening that is typically the result of contact with a sharp object, such as a knife. Puncture wounds are also caused by sharp objects, but sharp in a different way; think of a nail or animal teeth. The opening in the skin created by a puncture wound is usually very small, but these wounds can be deep and are generally very prone to infection.

With all of these common skin wounds, severity can vary from a very minor injury to a very severe one.

Causes and Symptoms of Lacerations

What causes laceration? A cut or hit are the two main causes of a laceration. Lacerations can be the result of an injury from a sharp object or from an impact injury due to a blunt object or force.

If you sustain a laceration, the symptoms (including bleeding, pain and inflammation) will happen right away and be obvious. There may be additional laceration symptoms if the wound is very deep and injures underlying structures such as muscle or organs. If there is any nerve damage, numbness or weakness may also be symptoms.

Conventional Treatment

When lacerations are small and not deep, basic wound care treatment at home is typically sufficient. Conventional first aid that should occur right away include:

  • Stopping the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound for several minutes until the bleeding stops completely
  • Cleaning the wound with water (not hydrogen peroxide or soap since these may irritate the injury) and carefully clearing out any debris with tweezers if necessary
  • Applying an antiseptic to the area to help prevent infection
  • Covering it with a sterile bandage, which you should typically change on a daily basis and whenever it gets wet or dirty

Severe lacerations warrant immediate medical attention. If a laceration occurs on the face, is longer than a half inch, is deep and/or is bleeding very heavily, stitches may be required. After receiving medical attention, your doctor should provide home care instructions, which will vary based on the size and location of the laceration as well as the type of stitches used (if stitches were necessary). Medicine to prevent infection or to treat pain may be offered. Depending upon the cause of the wound and your vaccination status, a tetanus booster shot may also be given. Sometimes surgery is necessary if foreign objects are in the wound.

5 Natural Ways to Assist Laceration Healing

If your cut looks shallow, small, clean and isn’t bleeding, you may not need medical care. After initial standard first aid (as described above), the following items can really help to promote healing and discourage wound complications such as infection:

1. Raw Honey

Raw honey isn’t just delicious in tea and coffee; when used topically, it can do amazing things to help heal skin injuries.

A scientific review published in the British Journal of Nursing highlights research showing that topical honey treatment not only has antimicrobial properties to prevent infection, but it also stimulates growth of wound tissues, encourages anti-inflammatory activity and reduces pain.”

An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology points out when used as a dressing on wounds, honey encourages a moisturized environment for the affected area, which promotes healing. The honey also “rapidly clears infection” while decreasing inflammation.

With antibiotic resistance continuing to be a major health concern around the world, it’s amazing we have a substance like honey that both laboratory and clinical research have shown is an effective broad-spectrum antibacterial agent with no adverse effects on wound tissues.

This homemade honey salve is great for all kinds of wounds, including lacerations and burns.

2. Garlic

Garlic is something you really want to be including in your diet while you’re waiting for a wound to completely heal. Why? Because garlic is an effective antimicrobial agent that can kill off bacteria and help to prevent infections. Garlic adds delicious flavor to an endless number of healthy recipes, so it shouldn’t be hard to incorporate this germ-fighter into your meals on a regular basis.

3. Collagen

As a laceration (or any wound) heals, the body produces new collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the body and provides structure to your skin. Topical application of collagen in wound dressings is known to encourage new tissue growth.

You can also use collagen internally by consuming things like beneficial bone broth or using a protein powder made from bone broth, which is also rich in collagen.

4. Zinc

Zinc is well-known for being one of the most key nutrients for wound healing. Incorporating more zinc foods into your diet is another great way to boost the healthy mending of a skin injury like a laceration. What kinds of foods should you be eating to up your intake of zinc? Some great choices include grass-fed beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and cashews.

5. Chamomile Essential Oil

Chamomile is a phytotherapeutic agent often used to promote wound healing. You can combine chamomile essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil and apply it to the area of concern daily. Coconut oil not only provides additional moisture to skin; it also contains an antibacterial component called lauric acid. Research shows that German chamomile can speed up the rate of healing and relieve inflammation and itching as wounds heal. It’s even been shown to be as effective or even more effective than hydrocortisone cream!

Precautions

If you have a laceration that is bleeding very heavily or bleeding that does not stop after 10–15 minutes of firm, direct pressure, seek immediate medical care. If you previously received stitches for a laceration and the stitches have come apart, you should also seek urgent care.

Examples of wounds that typically require emergency medical care include:

  • You see muscle, fat, tendon or bone.
  • There’s dirt and/or debris in the wound even after cleaning, or you have a feeling that something is in the wound even if you don’t see it.
  • Bleeding continues after applying direct pressure for 10–15 minutes.
  • Wound depth is greater than one-eighth to one-fourth inch.
  • There are jagged or uneven edges that may require stitches.
  • It’s on a high-stress location such as the chest, hands, feet or joints.
  • You’re just not sure how bad your injury is.

After medical attention, laceration complications can include bleeding, infection, poor wound closure, scarring and/or an allergic reaction to an anesthetic used during treatment. Let your doctor know if you’re experiencing any of these. As a wound heals, some inflammation and redness around the edges is quite normal, but if you think you may have an infection, always see your doctor. Signs of an infected laceration include severe pain, draining pus, redness beyond the wound edges, fever and chills or excessive wound swelling. 

Lacerations can also put you at a greater risk for a tetanus infection, which is a bacterial infection from dirt, dust, saliva or feces. Your healthcare provider may want to give you tetanus vaccine if you are unsure of your tetanus status or if it’s been more than five years since your last vaccination.

Final Thoughts

  • A laceration is a deep cut or tearing of the skin that causes an irregularly shaped wound.
  • Lacerations can be the result of an injury from a sharp object or from an impact injury due to a blunt object or force.
  • Lacerations, cuts, abrasions and puncture wounds all involve damage to the skin, but in different ways. The more severe any of these skin injuries are, the more likely you are to require immediate medical attention and the longer they take to heal.
  • After medical assistance (for a severe laceration) or home treatment (for a minor laceration), there are natural ways you can boost healing, including:
    • Using a high-quality raw honey topically
    • Incorporating more collagen into your diet through consumption of bone broth or bone broth supplements
    • Consuming more zinc-rich foods
    • Eating garlic to discourage infection
    • Using chamomile essential oil and coconut oil topically
Josh Axe

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