Sugar for Wounds: Do You Have It in Your First Aid Kit?
Sugar for Treating Wounds
The following is for informational purposes only. The information provided is not medical advice, and should not be considered as such. Any wound, cut or abrasion has the potential of becoming infected if not treated promptly and effectively. Certain wounds that become infected can be serious leading to loss of limb and possibly loss of life.
For over 4,000 years, medical practitioners have known about the wound healing properties of sugar. Now in Europe and in the U.K. in particular doctors, nurses and others directly responsible for the treatment of wounds and burns are bringing back this 4,000-year-old treatment.
Trials using patients with wounds have shown that the ancient treatment works. The reason sugar works to treat wounds is because sugar tends to draw water into its midst, through osmosis. This action both dries the bed of the wound to promote new tissue growth and dehydrates the bacterium that causes the infections in wounds, leaving the bacteria weak and fragile.
Sugar taken orally however will not destroy bacteria inside the body.
According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, sugar is hygroscopic and functions to dehydrate all bacteria. Bacterium of course requires water to survive and to multiply. Thus, the lack of water results in bacterial death.
“When bacteria die, they cannot reproduce. Therefore, infection cannot occur if all bacteria are eliminated in and around the wound” (Richard A. Knutson, MD).
Some studies have concluded that honey mixed with sugar can enhance the healing. It may be that the viscosity of the honey allows greater penetration into the wound and allows better contact with the wound. Honey also has certain anti-bacterial properties according to some experts.
The same theory applies when cooking oil is mixed with sugar to treat wounds. The oil or honey is mixed with sugar and applied as a salve. Petroleum jelly can also be applied to the bandage to help keep the sugar in place.
Puncture wounds are typically left open to promote healing.
A simple salve of sugar applied to the wound and covered loosely once it has stopped bleeding has the greatest effect according to most. Sugar in its granulated form will draw the moisture from the wound, which kills off the bacteria and prevents further growth.
In a survival situation, sprinkling granulated sugar in a wound may very well stop/prevent a serious infection. You must have clean water to irrigate the wound so that fresh sugar can be reapplied. Depending on the severity of the wound, you would change the dressing of sugar two to four times daily.
Proper hand sanitation is critical as well as having clean bandages available. Used cotton bandages can be rinsed well with clean water and then boiled for 10 minutes or longer to sterilize. The drying and handling process must be such as to prevent contamination of the bandages.
You can also mix povidone iodine (10 percent solution) with the sugar creating a paste to apply to the wound. The iodine will kill any bacteria present in and around the wound and the sugar will help stop any new growth.
The sugar paste is applied only after the wound has stopped bleeding and after the wound has been properly irrigated to remove any debris from the wound. Putting sugar and/or honey on a bleeding wound may cause it to bleed even more because they may interfere with the clotting process.
People tend to want to suture wounds in a survival situation before attempting other methods of wound closure or protection. Suturing is invasive and you should only suture if all other non-invasive methods have failed, when butterfly bandages or standard Band-Aids will not close the wound properly for example. Suture however, when bone can be seen or when you can see fatty tissue, which is yellow in color.
Closing a wound that has not been properly cleaned can trap debris/bacteria in the wound and could prevent the sugar and iodine if used from making contact with all parts of the wound. Suturing may be necessary if you do not have the means to treat the wound or cover the wound to prevent contamination, or the wound simply refuses to begin the healing process because of the separation of the tissue. However, if you do suture the wound you would still want to apply the sugar and/or other topical antiseptic.
Once again, the above is merely an opinion and is not medical advice. There will always be disagreement on when and how to suture and on how to treat wounds, so always consult with a medical professional before beginning any outdoor adventure.
What Is In Your Survival Medical Kit for Treating Wounds
- Add granulated sugar to the list of items. Sugar you find on the grocery store shelves will work as long as it is pure granulated sugar. The physical properties of granulated sugar play an important role.
- Make sure you have bandages (compression and pressure) and/or clean material to make bandages. Clean water is critical so you will need the means to collect and purify a water source.
- Topical antiseptics such as povidone iodine should be in the kit as well.
- Have material for a tourniquet in your kit and know how and when to use one. There are specific times when one is needed. Constricting or stopping blood flow to a limb can cause damage to tissue that is irreversible and can cause the loss of limb. Typically, a tourniquet is applied when there is an amputation of a limb or when there is, an arterial wound and bleeding cannot be controlled by compression.
- Have a suture kit but again know how and when to suture a wound.
- Have thermal blankets for treating shock
- Medical Gloves
- Razor knife or scalpel that has been protected from contamination
- Over the counter or prescription pain medications
The list is by no means comprehensive. It must be adapted to suit specific needs.
Sugar will have to be packed so that it does not absorb moisture from the air and so it is not contaminated with dirt and other debris. Allowing the sugar to absorb moisture may reduce its effectiveness in treating wounds.
How much to pack, this depends. Assume you would have to treat yourself and anyone with you. One sugar packet the same kind found on restaurant tables probably would be considered one treatment if the wound is small. You would need up to four or more treatments per day, per wound.
Do not forgo professional medical treatment just because you have sugar on the wound. Seek medical help immediately if available. The above information is for emergency treatment only and the described treatments will have varying degrees of effectiveness.