Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Should I use rubbing alcohol to clean a wound?"
How else should I clean a wound. Won't the rubbing alcohol disinfect it? Have a pretty ugly cut on my calf.
To reduce the risk of infection, scarring and tetanus, skin wounds need to be cleaned as soon as possible after you have stopped the bleeding. Rinsing the wound well under running tap water (the more the better) works just fine after the removal of all debris and dirt with tweezers sterilized from alcohol. You don't need to use burning stuff like rubbing alcohol, iodine or hydrogen peroxide to disinfect it. An open wound, although not sterile, will rarely get infected provided that you remove foreign bodies. If it gets infected (i.e. forming an abscess), you need to have it incised and drained. Mild soap is recommended for cleaning around the area of the wound. If the wound is large, deep, too painful to clean, or has dirt or debris in it that you cannot remove, please see a doctor. Otherwise, after a thorough cleaning applying a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment such as Neosporin or Polysporin to help keep the surface moist and prevent infection to promote healing. You can cover the wound with bandages to keep harmful bacteria out until it heals and then expose it to air to speed up the healing. The dressing needs to change at least on the daily basis. You need to be vigilant for signs of infection. If the wound does not heal or there is any redness, drainage, or swelling, see a primary care doctor immediately.
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