Simple Solutions for Minor Mishaps

Soothe cuts, scrapes, burns and bruises safely and naturally.

| July/August 2003

  • Keep potted aloe and other herbs on hand for easy access to the plants' antibacterial and skin-regenerative actions.
  • Apply aloe gel directly to burns to speed healing.

An estimated 80 percent of minor injuries occur at home. Fortunately, most can also be treated effectively at home with a comforting combination of first aid and natural remedies.

The Skinny on Your Skin

Minor wounds break the integrity of the skin, the body’s largest organ. The skin has two layers — the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the skin you see, the thin layer (about five cells deep) that’s in direct contact with the environment. The epidermis sheds cells constantly, without causing wounds because it has no blood supply. New cells from the underlying dermis quickly replace cells lost to shedding. The epidermis is also host to millions of bacteria and other microorganisms. Ordinarily, these residents cause no problems, but that can change quickly when you suffer a minor wound.

Beneath the epidermis is the dermis, which contains a rich blood supply — the reason minor wounds bleed so much; millions of nerve endings — the reason wounds hurt; and the connective tissue (collagen) that holds the skin together and gives it elasticity.

When a wound tears the dermis, microorganisms from the epidermis invade and threaten infection. The immune system goes to work to close the breach and kill the germs. Blood vessels around the wound dilate and extra blood rushes into the area, rinsing the wound and cleaning it. The extra blood also carries a small army of white blood cells that attack infection-causing microorganisms. This process causes inflammation — swelling, redness and pain around the wound. Cells injured by the wound die, but before they expire, they release a protein that triggers blood clotting (thromboplastin), which eventually forms a scab that closes the wound.

After about 24 hours, other white blood cells release proteins that stimulate the repair of injured blood vessels and the creation of new skin cells and collagen. Sometimes the process is less than perfect, and collagen forms where you should have skin. The result is a scar.

If a wound gets infected, pain and inflammation persist or increase, and after a few days, a creamy yellowish fluid, known as pus, may ooze from your scab. Pus is made up of dead bacteria and white blood cells.

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