Many skin wounds can usually benefit from an appropriate application of heat to the injured or infected site. While placing heat on a wound may seem simple, many individuals make common errors that can result in poor healing or even enhance the existing trauma. Heat needs to be applied with care and understanding. Here are some pointers.
Things You'll Need
- Self or professional examination of the skin wound
- A clean wash cloth or paper towel
- A clean, pre-made heat pack
- Warm water and microwave (if available)
- A watch to time the heat application
Many skin wounds are simple abrasions that are superficial and can generally be self-treated. However, before implementing any self-treatment you should carefully examine the skin wound for any profuse bleeding, foreign objects, extreme pain, limitation of movement of the affected area or other suspicious trauma. If you are uncertain whether or not the wound is a simple one that should respond to self-treatment-please seek professional medical care immediately.
Gently cleanse the injured area to remove any dirt or superficial debris.
Place a warm (NOT scalding) wet compress on the area. A simple way of accomplishing this is to wet a clean cloth and ring it out fairly well and place it in the microwave for about 1 minute. Be very careful when you remove the "nuked" cloth from the microwave since it will likely be much hotter than you anticipate. Shake the cloth for a few seconds to cool it down to an acceptable temperature.
Place a barrier between your skin and the warm compress. A clean paper towel should work nicely. This prevents any potential direct skin burns and helps keep the affected area clean.
Heat should be applied for 5 minutes or more (you may have to rewarm your compress several times to accomplish this) at least three to four times a day or as directed by your healthcare provider.
Repeat as often as necessary along with frequent self-assessment of the wound and the progress of healing. Always use a fresh cloth with each warm compress application. Wash the used compresses in hot water in your washing machine with your usual laundry detergent to prevent reinfection or passing along possible contamination to others. (I feel it is always best to use dye and scent-free detergents to reduce the chances of introducing any foreign substances into your body.)
If your superficial wound does not improve or actually worsens with self-treatment, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Tips & Warnings
- Applying heat to a superficial wound will help dilate nearby blood vessels and promote healing.
- Always use a physical barrier such as a paper towel between the compress and the skin.
- Never directly apply a heated compress to the skin; this could cause additional injury.
- Never apply heated compresses to skin treated with topical medication unless directed to do so by your healthcare provider. Heat may actually increase the absorption of the medicated cream which may not be beneficial to the healing process.
- This article is for informational purposes only. Only a licensed healthcare provider can diagnosis and treat a medical condition.
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