Monday, August 2, 2004

Band-aid solutions

Here's a look into the medicine
chest of high-tech ouch relief

By Peggy O'Farrell / Enquirer staff writer

(Brandi Stafford/
The Enquirer)
Buying bandages used to be simple: Pick the right size with your kid's favorite cartoon character on it, and head to the cash register.

Now, some have silver, some have built-in antibiotics and some are liquid compounds that serve as stealth bandages, staying invisible while keeping out water, dirt and germs.

We asked Dr. Cathy Creger-Rosenbaum, pharmacologist and clinical safety and effectiveness officer at TriHealth, to take a look at the labels and help us decipher the key ingredients in all these fancy bandages.

In all cases, she says, scan the label and check for ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction, and see a doctor if the wound doesn't heal or becomes infected.

Cleaning wound is key step

The bandage really isn't the most important part of the equation when it comes to caring for most ouches, says Dr. Anne Marie Fitz, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"The main thing is the initial cleaning. If parents really know how to clean the wound and take care of it, that's probably 90 percent of the battle," she says.

Here's how:

• Wash your hands well, with plenty of soap and hot water.

• Rinse the wound under running water for a few minutes and clean out any dirt and debris, such as gravel. "That's really the key step to having a good outcome," Fitz says.

• Wash the wound with soap - Fitz likes the liquid antibacterial kind - and warm water.

Some parents like to clean cuts and scrapes with Mercurochrome, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, "but they're not helpful and they just irritate the skin, she says.

Hydrogen peroxide looks like it's doing a good job cleaning as it bubbles up, "but in the meantime, the kid is screaming," Fitz says.

If it's a small scratch or cut, it probably doesn't need a bandage.

But if it's a larger wound, it's still oozing or bleeding or it's on an area likely to get dirty, put a layer of antibiotic cream on it, then a bandage.

Basic bandage performs task

Yes, you can pay $4 or $5 for a box of high-tech bandages the next time you or a loved one suffer a minor ouch.

But should you?

Some bandages have antibiotics imbedded in the wound pad. Some have silver, a natural antibacterial. Some are specially shaped or use special adhesive to make them less painful to remove.

But for most minor injuries, "the fancy band-aids probably aren't worth the money," says Dr. Anne Marie Fitz, a general pediatrician at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"Buy what's cheap," Fitz advises. "Or if you really have a particular patient, buy their favorite cartoon character or their favorite color."

A box of store brand bandages and a tube of triple antibiotic cream (like Neosporin) will handle most minor injuries, she says. She even suggests buying the generic antibiotic cream.

"Ouchless" bandages can be helpful on hairy areas, she says.


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