Have you ever cut yourself while playing at the beach? The cut isn’t life threatening but pretty bloody. Did you seek a lifeguard to clean the wound or just go into the open ocean? There is a popular myth circulating that I have heard several times from friends and family. The myth is that sea salt water is excellent for cleaning open wounds and preventing infection. Have you heard this myth?
When I was a teenager I was badly hurt in a car crash. A car door window crashed down on top of my face. The doctors prescribed an iodized salt water solution to gradually remove the glass pieces from my face. The solution worked wonderfully and as a result I do not have any noticeable scars. Naturally, when presented with the logic that sea salt water cleaned wounds, I found myself agreeing with this logic simply from my own personal experience. Yet, it turns out I was wrong. The myth is false. Sea salt water does not clean wounds.
Then how come my doctors prescribed salt water to remove foreign materials from my face? Salt water is different from sea salt water. Salt water is sterilized whereas sea salt water is not. The ocean is full of bacteria. Think about how many things we and other animal species deposit into the ocean. If you linger too long thinking about it, you may never wish to go back into the ocean again. The bottom line is the ocean is filthy and sea water is not good for healing wounds.
It is true iodine is a known antibacterial agent. Iodized salt is used to preserve meat and clean wounds. However, the ocean has too many bacteria to effectively work as a healing solution. Sea salt water can even make cuts worse, by infecting the open wound with harmful bacteria.
So, does sea water heal wounds? No. If a lifeguard station is nearby, pay them a visit. Lifeguards carry with them wound disinfectant spray and medical supplies to clean injuries. It is their job. Let them help you. If a lifeguard station is not present or available, then the best way to clean an open cut is to actually spit on it. According to dermatology professor, Adnan Nasir, M.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “A digestive enzyme in saliva can clean wounds and kill microorganisms.” So when in doubt, spit on it. Leave the ocean for just swimming, not disinfecting.
Currie, Professor Bart. “Fact Buster – Will Sea Water Help Heal Sores? .” ABC Health and Well Being. ABC News, 18 03 2010. Web. May 30, 2013. <http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2010/03/18/2849271.htm>
“7 Myths Busted.” MH Lists. Men’s Health, n. d. Web. May 30, 2013. <http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/summer-myths/clean-an-open-wound.php