Science Questions

Why is it recommended to put salt on cuts?

Sun, 4th Nov 2007

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Veronica asked:

Why is it recommended to put salt on cuts? It seems to be popular advice with dealing with cuts on the inside of your mouth, for example, but what’s really happening and is using salt actually a good idea?


A lot of bacteria, especially the ones in the mouth like Streptococci and some of the other mouth-dwelling organisms, are Papercutquite salt-sensitive.

For them, a big dose of salt is a bit like putting salt on a slug. It pulls the water out of the bacteria and dehydrates them, which can damage or disable them.

But some other bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus, actually like salt; so if you have a wound on your finger it might not actually be so good for that because it will kill the bugs in there which are not staphs removing the competition for staphylococci that are there, so you might end up with your wound being colonised entirely by staph!

Overall, salt is quite good in very high concentrations because it stops a range of bugs growing, which is why meats and produce are salted to preserve them. But, the likelihood of you getting enough concentration of salt into a wound to kill the bugs is quite unlikely. It does have a soothing effect though, especially on mouth ulcers!


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