Wound care treatment can be weird…and wonderful! You’re probably familiar with some of the more commonly seen wound care treatments- such as absorbent dressings, chemical debriders, barrier creams and even impregnated gauze. However, in parts of the world that these conventional treatments might not be available, other wound care treatment options are employed… and can be far more effective than you would think!
Wound treatment dressings serve multiple purposes- a moist environment at the interface of the wound; a barrier between the wound and microorganisms; and non-toxic, non-allergenic, non-sensitizing agents. Wound dressings can also contain anti-inflammatory substances, proteins, vitamins, and other wound healing properties.
Here we take a closer look at three weird and wonderful wound care treatments that you may never have heard of. Do you think any of these could be useful where you work?
Fish skin has been increasingly used, and recently FDA approved, to act as a ‘scaffold’, or support network, to skin. Products made from dried and processed fish skin (in which allergens are no longer present) act as an extracellular matrix- which is a group of proteins and starches which play a vital role in skin and wound recovery- when placed on wounds. In healthy skin, a matrix surrounds cells and binds them to tissue. This boosts the growth of new skin. However, in chronic wounds, this structure does not form, and so the extracellular matrix made from the fish skin product provides the cells of the body a structure that they can grow around, so that healthy tissue may form. As the product is biodegradable and natural, it eventually becomes absorbed into the wound as the healthy skin grows over.
Fish skin is rich in nutritious materials, including Omega 3 fatty acids, that are naturally anti-inflammatory. This also helps speed up healing in chronic wounds and skin breakdown.
Sterilized fish skin can be used to aid with collagenase transfer and ease pain; and can be easier that gauze when it comes to dressing changes for burns. You can see fish skin used in countries such as Brazil and Denmark, to successfully help with diabetic wounds, burns, or non-healing injuries.
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Here’s another food-based super product: bananas! Banana leaves and peels have been used for many years in certain countries. The leaves have been proven, in more recent times, to have medicinal properties. This can make them an acceptable alternative to more costly, synthetic wound care materials- especially in developing countries. Banana leaves cool the skin and do not stick to open wounds. Several studies have examined the use of banana leaf dressings, which were shown to result in rapid epithelization and less pain during wound changes than typical gauze-and-Vaseline dressings. Clinical research has shown that banana leaf dressings also can reduce pain and help protect wounds from infection, as well as aiding healing.
Banana peels have been aid with skin regeneration and re-mineralization and have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Healing occurs at a DNA level, with some of the compounds found in banana peels increasing cell proliferation, inducing and enhancing the healing process. They also contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Another reason to use banana leaves and peels? They are antimicrobial! Lab testing has demonstrated that banana peel extract significantly inhibits growth of bacteria. They are free, widely available in tropical countries, and easy to apply and use.
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And lastly in our foodstuff-based interventions for wound care- honey! You may or may not have heard of the antibacterial, powerful effects of honey for wound healing. People have used honey for centuries, for all manner of wounds and skin conditions, and it now has commercialized products inspired by its medicinal properties (honey-impregnated dressings and ointments such as MediHoney or TheraHoney).
Honey is central in wound healing for many reasons- including its broad-spectrum antibacterial effect. Honey can kill and block possibly harmful infections, through a combination od hydrogen peroxide and methylglyoxal, which, in Manuka honey, can withstand significant dilution by wound exudate and still maintain enough activity to inhibit bacteria growth.
It also has anti-inflammatory and osmotic effects owing to its high sugar content- drawing water from issues and allowing for an outflow of lymphatic fluid (as can also be seen with negative pressure wound therapy/Wound VACs).
Honey has an acidic pH which stimulates oxygenation of the tissues- integral to wound healing; and has bioactivities that stimulate an immune response, suppress inflammation, and bring on autolytic debridement.
Research comparing the effects of honey with alternative wound dressings and topical treatments on the healing of acute and/or chronic wounds concluded that honey can heal partial thickness burns and infected post-operative wounds more quickly that conventional treatment (which included polyurethane film, paraffin gauze, soframycin-impregnated gauze, etc.).
As you can see, the science behind the healing of wounds encompasses many weird and wonderful treatments! Have you experienced any of these methods to assist in wound healing where you work? What do you think?
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