hether it’s a simple paper cut or road rash from a bike spill, when you get a minor cut, your body immediately goes into action.
To first stop the bleeding, blood cells start to cluster together to promote clotting. Inflammation then sparks the arrival of different kinds of cells to help get rid of bacteria and keep the wound clean. Finally, the body starts building new skin cells to protect the wound and ultimately repair the skin.
When everything goes well, most basic cuts and scrapes typically take about one to two weeks to heal, and those that are particularly large could need more time.
But what if your cut isn't mending quickly? If you’re generally healthy, and a wound is sticking around a little longer than usual, something else in your daily routine could be throwing off healing.
We spoke to wound care experts on what you could be doing that's hampering healing.
If your wound is super small or you’re in a rush, it can be tempting to skip disinfecting it.
You never know what kind of bacteria could be lurking on the surface of whatever you’ve just scraped up against, so skipping this important step could mean letting germs hang out and multiply, possibly upping your risk for infection and dragging out the healing process.
It really only takes a few seconds to clean any cut with some soap and clean water. “This combo will remove dirt and bacteria that could cause an infection and potentially prolong healing,” says Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology at the University of California.
When you initially get a cut, white blood cells swoop in on the scene to combat germs so healing won't be delayed. For a small, minor wound, this attack usually wipes out most of the bacteria, but sometimes everyday activities can reintroduce more.
Even washing the dishes or playing a quick game of football can bring bad bacteria back into the wound. Sometimes you can see the signs of a resulting infection—swelling, tenderness, redness, oozing pus—but other times the infection might be smaller, and won’t have the telltale symptoms.
The best way to help protect a cut or scrape from exposure to infection is to make sure the wound is properly covered, so you can keep bacteria from entering the wound.
Traditional bandages cover the wound, but they don’t seal the injury completely, meaning water and bacteria can still find their way in. Hydro Seal adheres completely across the injury to seal the wound and prevent things from going in and under.
The new BAND-AID® Brand HYDRO SEAL™ adhesive bandage has a unique design that shields and cushions wounds to specifically help keep out dirt and germs and prevent reinjury.
“Traditional bandages cover the wound, but they don’t seal the injury completely, meaning water and bacteria can still find their way in,” saysDirector, Global Wound Care Research & Development, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. "Hydro Seal adheres completely across the injury to seal the wound and prevent things from going in and under.”
The bandages are also designed to stay on for several days—even through hand-washing and bathing.
You may have heard that “airing out” a wound is good for it—but that’s not actually true. If the wound dries out, and a scab is allowed to form, it can delay healing.
One of the benefits of Hydro Seal is that it prevents scabbing by sealing the wound, explains Cettina.
"A white bubble forms as Hydro Seal absorbs moisture, showing it’s working and maintaining the optimal environment for your healing wound," she says. "After several days, the Hydro Seal bandage will begin to fall off on its own, and by that point, the wound should be well on its way to being healed.”
Certain drugs can delay healing, such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication that might be used for headaches or a fever. Oral corticosteroids used to treat conditions like asthma could also affect wound healing.
“They basically stop the inflammatory cells from working, so when you get a scrape, there are fewer cells to clean and repair the wound,” explains Martins-Green.
If you think any of your wounds are healing too slowly, or could be infected, see your doctor for treatment, as well as to rule out any more serious health issues that may need to be checked. And you should always speak with your physician before altering your medication regimen.