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A Handbook of Health by Woods Hutchinson

And may also contain some weak pus germs


On

the other hand, some cuts and scratches will fester and throb and turn to "matter" (_pus_) and even give you fever and headache and blood poisoning. What makes the difference? It is never the size, or depth, of the scratch or cut itself, but simply _the dirt that gets into it afterward_. If a cut, or scratch, no matter how deep or ragged, be made with a clean knife-blade or sliver and kept clean afterward, it will never "matter" (_suppurate_) or cause blood poisoning. So if you know how to keep dirt out of cuts and scratches, you know how to prevent ninety-nine per cent of all the dangers and damage that may come from this sort of accident.

Not more than one cut or scratch in a thousand is deep enough to go down to an artery, so as to cause dangerous bleeding, or to injure an important nerve trunk. So, though no one would by any means advise you to be reckless about getting cut and scratched, yet it is better and safer to run some risk of cuts and scratches in healthy play when young, and learn how to keep them clean, than to grow up pale and flabby-muscled and cowardly.

How to Prevent Infection in Wounds. It is not just dirt that is dangerous,--although dirt of any sort is a bad thing to get into wounds and should be kept out in every possible way,--but dirt that contains those little vegetable bacteria that we call germs. The dirt most likely to contain these germs--called pus germs, because they cause pus,

or "matter" in a wound--is dirt containing decaying animal or vegetable substances (particularly horse manure, which may contain the tetanus, or lock-jaw germ) and the discharges from wounds, or anything that has come near decayed meat or unhealthy gums or noses or teeth. This is why a cut or scratch made by a knife that has been used for cutting meat, or by a dirty finger-nail, or by the claw of a cat, or by the tooth of a rat, is often likely to fester and "run." Animals like rats and dogs and cats often feed upon badly decayed meat; and hence their teeth, or claws, are quite likely to be smeared with the germs that cause decay, and these will make trouble if they get into a wound.

Fortunately, the care of a cut or scratch is very simple and practically the same in all cases. Just make the wound thoroughly clean and keep it so until it is healed. For a slight clean cut or scratch, a good cleanser is pure water. Hold the hand or foot under the faucet or pump, and let the cool water wash it out thoroughly. If you are sure that the thing you cut it with was clean, let the blood dry on the cut and form a scab over it. If the wound is large, or there is any danger of the water of the well, or tap, having sewage in it (see chapter IX), it is better to boil the water before using it. Unless the blood is spurting in jerks from a cut artery, or bleeding very freely indeed, it is better to let the wound bleed, as this helps to wash out any dirt or germs that have got into it. When the bleeding has stopped, do not put on sticking plaster, because this keeps out the air and keeps in the sweat of the skin surrounding the wound, which is not healthful for the wound, and may also contain some weak pus germs.

If the wound is small, the old-fashioned clean white rag that has been boiled and washed is as good as anything that can be used for a dressing. Tear off a narrow strip from one to two inches wide and as many feet long, according to the position of the wound, roll it round the finger or limb three or four times, and then take a turn round the wrist or nearest joint, to keep the bandage from slipping off. If the wound be likely to keep on oozing blood, put on first a thickness of surgeon's cotton, or prepared cotton-batting, an ounce of which can be purchased for ten cents at any drugstore. This is an excellent dressing, because it not only sucks up, or absorbs any oozing from the wound, but is a perfect filter-protection against germs of all sorts from the outside. Ninety-nine simple wounds out of a hundred dressed in this way will heal promptly and safely without danger of pus, or "matter."


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