The above picture should indicate that this is by no means a normal food/recipes article. Instead of a picture of my kitchen counter, this is a picture of my bathroom counter at the moment. This is not normal for a food blog but I feel that it is important information that should be shared.
I now know exactly what is meant by the phrase 'a gaping wound'. I sliced my left thumb open while preparing dinner a few days ago. To be honest, I was terrified. I knew it was a very bad cut as soon as the knife went in because I could feel how deep and forceful it was. I didn't need the horrifying sight of the gaping wound (while rinsing under the tap) to tell me that I needed immediate medical attention. To cut a long story short, I now have 5 stitches on my left thumb and have been resting at home for a few days, doing most thing one handed.
As cooks, most of us are familiar with the occasional nicks and pokes with knives, scissors, skewers or other sharp objects. Usually, a rinse under the tap and a Band-Aid would do and we would just carry on. But accidents so happen and in the event that you or anyone you know should cut themselves badly, it helps to know what to do and what you should have at hand in your first-aid kit. These are some pointers that I want to share from my experience and based on advice from my doctor and pharmacist. Of course, you should always seek personal advice from your local medical practitioner if you have a deep cut, puncture wound or serious burn (from steam or water).
* Rinse the wound immediately under running tap water or bottled water, no matter how much it hurts. This cleans the wound and will reduce risk of infection.
* To stop bleeding, press several pieces of gauze over the wound and apply firm pressure. Elevate the wound above your heart and keep it raised. Any cut should stop bleeding with firm pressure after 5 minutes.
* If the wound should bleed through the gauze, do not remove the gauze. Place another piece of gauze over it and continue to press firmly. Removing the gauze will disturb the clotting process and cause the wound to bleed again. Gauze is best as it does not stick to wounds or leave fibres. Packets of sterile gauze are good things to have in your first-aid kit. But if you don't have any gauze, a clean towel or kitchen paper towels will do.
* Go to your nearest GP, medical centre or hospital for medical attention. Avoid the hospital if you have access to a nearby clinic that can do minor surgeries like stitches (which most do). You are likely to wait a few hours at a hospital and the chance of infection increases the longer you wait (not to mention panicking...).
* The doctor or nurse will clean the wound and decided whether you needs stitches. You will be given local anaesthetic to numb the area before stitching. You should also get a tetanus shot if you cannot remember when your last one was or if it was longer than 5 years ago.
* After stitches, a dressing or Band-Aid may be applied to keep the wound clean, reduce risk of infection and avoid accidental disturbance of the stitched area. For the next 24 hours, you should keep your hand or arm raised. Do not have your arm or hand dangling down in its normal position as that encourage blood flow to the wound and may cause further bleeding. This is less of a concern when sleeping as your body will be in a horizontal position.
* It is normal to have a little bleeding for the first 24-48 hours. Apply a piece of gauze over the wound and press firmly for 5 minutes, the bleeding should stop. A little clear liquid from the wound is also normal. If the wound will not stop bleeding after compression, see a doctor immediately.
* Change the dressing every day or as advised by your doctor, or if the wound bleeds. Moisten a sterile piece of gauze with saline solution (0.9% sodium chloride) and clean the wound and surrounding area gently. Make sure that it is dry before covering the area with a new Band-Aid or dressing. Never re-use gauze or Band-Aid.
* Sterile saline solution is the best thing to use for cleaning wounds. You don't want to use alcohol because it burns. Hydrogen peroxide is popularly used to clean wounds as it kills germs and bacteria and does not sting. However, many doctors and pharmacists advise against using antiseptic washes like hydrogen peroxide as it kills both new healthy tissues as well as bacteria, which will slow down the healing process.
* Keep the stitches clean and dry to aid healing and reduce infection. You can shower or bathe as long as you keep the wound dry. I showered with a plastic bag over my hand.
* The area around the stitches and the points of injection for local anaesthetic may become bruised or slightly swollen. As the wound heals, it will feel itchy. Avoid scratching at all cost.
* The wound may be painful for a few days. You can take regular paracetamol or ibuprofen (Panadol, Tylenol or Advil) as indicated on the box or bottle.
* Do not take aspirin unless prescribed by your doctor for other treatment. Also avoid alcohol for a few days. Both aspirin and alcohol thins the blood and can interfere with clotting.
* A little redness or swelling around the wound is normal. If the wound is very swollen and painful, with yellowish liquid or pus, red streaks on the skin around the wound, or if you have a fever, see a doctor immediately as the wound may be infected.
* Stitches are generally removed 7 to 10 days later by your doctor. Do not attempt to remove them yourself. Your doctor or nurse is trained to remove the stitches with minimal risk of infection or disturbing the healing wound. He or she will also assess the wound to see if the stitches should stay in for longer.
I certainly hope none of you reading this will need the above advice. But if you should cut yourself badly enough to require stitches, I hope the above pointers will give you a better idea what to do. In closing, I would strongly recommend that you have at least the following in your home first-aid kit/cupboard:
- sterile saline (0.9% sodium chloride), in small sealed bottles or vials
- sterile gauze in individual packets
- Band-Aid in assorted sizes