June 13th, 2024

To Your Health: Don’t paper over those cuts

By Gillian Slade on August 20, 2018.

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An innocent looking little piece of paper has the ability to inflict significant pain.

An innocent looking little piece of paper has the ability to inflict significant pain.

It makes me wince, just thinking of all the paper cuts to fingers and hands over the years. You can actually hear the slice and then the pain starts.

We don’t often put things in envelopes anymore but using your tongue to lick the glue so that the flap is sealed can result in a paper cut to lips.

Even if it does not bleed, the pain can be considerable and out of all proportion to the size and depth of the cut.

Our fingers are some of the most sensitive parts of our body with a network of nerves. We also use our fingers all the time, touching the area of the cut, triggering the pain.

My hands get very dry, especially in winter, and unless I have been extremely diligent with hand cream and in wearing gloves while cleaning the house, I will get those “splits” at the corners of the nails. The edges split open and throb out of all proportion to their size.

Apparently these paper cuts and finger splits are so sore because they are exposing the nerve fibres. If the cut was actually deeper it could impair the ability of the nerve fibres to communicate pain to the brain. So the mere fact that it is so superficial contributes to the pain.

Don’t ignore that little cut though.

It is very important to cleanse the cut promptly with plenty of hot water and soap to prevent any infection.

There was a media report of a man in the U.S. who ended up almost dying after a paper cut became infected. The initial infection resulted in sepsis and rapid organ failure. He was placed in a medically induced coma for three weeks and in the end he did pull through.

After cleaning the cut area you may need a little ointment and a Band-Aid initially. If you are doing something that means frequent washing of hands it means changing the Band-Aid regularly too.

Personally I have found painting some clear nail polish on the cut/split, after it has been cleaned and is completely dry, can help to “seal” it and even address the level of pain to some extent. It gives the skin underneath time to rejuvenate.

Here’s to surviving paper cuts and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.

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