How to Treat Injuries at
By Dr. Gulshan Harjee
We all have our household ways of treating minor
injuries. But when was the last time you heard from
a physician on how best to treat these?
Growing up in a village in Africa, we treated most
injuries at home with simple remedies. Cuts were
usually treated with water and soap and wrapped
with a clean cotton cloth that was reused after being
washed in boiling hot water and air-dried until it was
crisp. It is good to know what you can do at home in the event of an injury.
Cuts and bruises
Once an injury occurs, the body’s natural response is to form a clot and to invite fighter white
cells toward off infectious agents from entering the insulted skin tissues. It is common to see
some fluids to exude from the cut. This is a normal response and is not to be mistaken for pus,
which is a sign of active infection and requires a visit to the doctor. After a cut or bruise, a fever
or red streaking or bleeding that is not controlled is a sign to visit the doctor.
Even today medical advice is to clean a cut or bruise with running cold water and wash it with
soapy water. It is better to avoid applying soap directly because it may cause marked irritation.
Wounds and cuts should be wrapped up to avoid the entry of bacteria. In most people with
healthy immune responses, wounds heal with daily soap water washes when the clot is not
A visit to the doctor becomes necessary if the bruise or cut appears deep where muscle and
tendons are injured and yellowish fat is seen. Similarly, if a gash is longer than half an inch, that
may herald a need for a stitch or two to seal the skin tight, to enhance healing, and to keep
infection from setting in. All doctors will advise wounds to be left closed with gauze held firmly
with an ace bandage or a safety pin. Gauze is preferable to cotton balls or batting, whose fibers
might stick to the wound. Dettol is a favorite in many Indian households as an antiseptic
disinfectant and works quite well, if you overlook that it may be more harsh and irritating than an
ointment. If you’re looking for a more gentle way to disinfect, go for an ointment.
A dab of an antimicrobial agent such as Polysporin or Neosporin or a highly diluted peroxide
may promote a sterile environment, particularly if the wound is on a mobile area such as a joint,
or if the patient’s immunity is compromised by leukemia, diabetes, chemotherapy, age or
HIV/AIDS. Grandma often used a dab of ghee or honey. I am unclear as to the science behind
this, but I tend to believe that the thick layer must form a barrier of some sort against bacteria,
and research is being conducted on the use of honey. In some areas of India, people use various
other home remedies such as banana paste, burnt mango leaves and curry leaves.
A sprain is best managed with immediate application of ice. Most sprains heal with elevation, a
pain killer such as over-the-counter Ibuprofen, and some bed rest with the limb elevated. An ace
bandage to provide additional support will bring more relief from pain. If yours is a household
with young children, have a pair of crutches handy! Injured limbs or joints heal faster without the
extra weight on them. Should the joint or limb continue to swell after 24 hours, make sure to visit
the doctor. A loss of sensation indicates a bigger problem and may require immediate attention.
When I was growing up, Doctor Grandma was quick to prepare her cumin-and-flour homemade
It is essential for every household to have an easily accessible first-aid kit. Make sure your first-
aid kit is stocked for emergencies. At your next doctor visit consider getting a tetanus shot—it
may save you a visit to the urgent care center. When in doubt it is best to give your doctor a call.
[Gulshan Harjee, M.D., is a board certified internist in private practice with an emphasis on
prevention. Please email your health and medical questions for consideration in this column to:
email@example.com. The material in this column is of a general nature, and must not be
construed as specific medical advice. This column rotates monthly along with the Fitness
Lifestyle column by Aarti Patel.]
Published by Khabar Magazine, Health Watch section April 2012 issue.