Do Wounds Need Air to Heal?

Covering wounds

There's an age-old debate of whether it's better to air out wounds or keep them covered. While it may seem intuitive to let wounds breathe and expose them to air for faster healing, the truth is that wounds actually need some level of moisture to properly heal.

Leaving wounds uncovered can lead to the drying out of fresh cells on the surface, potentially causing increased pain and a slower healing process.

In this article, we’ll provide everything you need to know about the healing process of wounds, including how long to keep them covered and when you can start taking those bandages off.

Should You Air Out Your Wound?

Airing out most wounds isn't really beneficial since wounds actually need some moisture to heal properly. When you leave a wound uncovered, it can dry out the fresh cells on the surface and make the healing process slower and more painful.

That's why most healthcare professionals recommend keeping wounds moist, but not overly wet.

For example, after cleaning the wound, they usually apply a topical antibiotic ointment to a scrape or small cut and cover it with gauze or a bandage. This approach helps keep the new skin and other cells alive and also protects the area from dirt, germs, and any further injuries. Plus, it often feels more comfortable than leaving a wound open.

However, like in most areas of medicine, there are exceptions. Small dry scabs from minor cuts and scrapes can be left uncovered.

But if you're worried that a wound looks deep, isn't healing as it should, or might be infected, it's important to have a healthcare professional take a look at it. They can examine the wound and provide the necessary care and treatment.

How Long Does it Take for Wounds to Heal?

The healing time for wounds can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the type and severity of the wound, the person’s overall health, and proper wound care.

Generally, minor cuts and scrapes may take about one to three weeks to heal fully. Deeper or more significant wounds – such as surgical incisions or severe lacerations – may require several weeks or even months to heal completely. Chronic or complex wounds – like pressure ulcers or diabetic foot ulcers – may take an extended period of time to heal, often requiring specialized treatment and ongoing care.

How Can You Tell When a Wound is Healing?

When a wound is starting to heal, there are several signs to look out for. Initially, you may notice a formation of a thin layer of skin across the wound's surface, which is often transparent or pinkish in color.

This indicates that new cells are developing to replace the damaged tissue. As healing progresses, the wound may appear smaller in size, and the surrounding skin may regain a more natural color.

Gradually, the wound edges should start to close, forming a stronger barrier against infection. Additionally, you may observe the presence of granulation tissue, which appears as a reddish, bumpy texture within the wound. This tissue helps in the healing process by providing a nourishing base for new skin growth.

It's important to keep in mind that every healing process is unique, and the appearance of a wound can vary depending on its location, size, and other factors. If you have any concerns about the healing progression or suspect any signs of infection, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate evaluation and care.

When Should You Stop Covering a Wound?

You should stop covering a wound once it has healed or when it is ready to be exposed to air for optimal healing. In general, wounds should be kept covered for the initial stages of healing to protect against infection and provide a moist environment that promotes healing.

However, there are a few situations when you may consider removing the cover:

When the wound is visibly healed: If the wound has completely closed and there are no signs of infection, you can remove the cover.

When the wound is dry: If the wound has dried out and formed a scab, it is often safe to remove the cover. However, be cautious as premature removal of the cover or the scab can disrupt the healing process.

When advised by a healthcare professional: If you've been under medical care for the wound, follow the instructions given by your healthcare provider. They may assess the wound and advise you on when to remove the cover.

Where Can I Learn More About Wound Care?

If you’re concerned about a wound, you can speak to a healthcare provider from the comfort of your home. Head over to LifeMD to schedule an online appointment today.

Kimberli Hastings, CNP

Kimberli is a Family Nurse Practitioner, practicing in the areas of Family Medicine and Mental Health since 2019. She has worked in nursing homes, dialysis centers, and clinics. Kimberli’s goal as a healthcare provider is to improve her patients' lives.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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