This article will look into the phrase “to rub salt into a wound” and explore its literal meaning in terms of actual injuries, as well as if it could be a first aid medicine in some instances.
We’ve all heard the expression “put salt in a wound.” As most people know, the phrase indicates making a bad situation worse.
If you’ve just lost your job and are cleaning up your desk, having a colleague come up to you and boast about his recent promotion, then that same scenario would be the best example of pouring salt in your figurative wound.
It’s not difficult to figure out the source of this idiom. If you’ve ever had saltwater in a new cut, you know how unpleasant it can be to have salt in your wound. It’s an excruciating, pulsating kind of pain.
However, you may remember that saline solution is used in hospitals all around the globe for wound irrigation.
This liquid chemical got us thinking: it’s evident that putting salt in an actual wound hurts, but is it genuinely worsening the problem? Or, in the long run, can the salt improve the condition and prevent infection, making it a feasible strategy for survival medicine?
Let’s dive in and go over the information you need to address doubts and get further informed on putting salt in wounds.
Just to set the record straight, this article isn’t a full first-aid manual. It is still best to consult medical professionals to determine the medical care suited for your condition.
“Putting Salt on Wounds” Idiom
The phrase “salt in the wound” has origins dating back to early England. It was used as a type of punishment on sailors opposing their forced service under English fleets and canals, such that those who refused were lacerated with rope whips called cat-o’-nine tails.
This would often draw blood from the skin, and salt was used as an equivalent to a modern-day antiseptic (although this method is not commonly recommended today).
In some contexts beyond naval use of force, “salt in the wound” can have a more figurative meaning. It may symbolize a person’s mental state when experiencing added hardship due to bad luck or the wrong circumstances of life, often related either directly or indirectly to someone else touching on an already painful issue.
While “salt in the wound” does not refer to a physical feeling any longer, it still conveys how someone’s intentional words or actions can compound an already psychologically painful situation.
For instance, saying something belittling about another person when they are already vulnerable due to previous events has been compared metaphorically to rubbing salt into the wound and causing further pain.
Proper Wound Care
Now that we know salt was a reliable antiseptic in the early days, but it isn’t as safe to use for the same purpose today, then what do we do now? How should we take care of an open wound?
In 2006, a doctor at the University of California at San Francisco wrote for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Walter Sipe, M.D., clearly said that people should keep salt out of their cut.
He supported this statement further by adding that the most important thing people can do to treat a wound is rinsed it with a lot of clean water. And by water, he meant a filtered or chemically treated kind to clean enough to be drinkable.
Sipe also mentioned making a pressured water spray. People must fill a bag with water, poke the bottom corner of the pack with a needle to make a small hole, and squeeze the bag. The water will then come out to wash the wound.
Scrubbing is also essential for dirty wounds stated further by the University of California medical graduate. This step is needed because you have to get rid of foreign bodies on an open wound.
It doesn’t work better than water to keep wounds from getting infected. Exposure to iodine, alcohol, peroxide, and pure salt can also hurt the tissues. You can hold direct pressure on a cut or wound until the bleeding stops.
Saline Solution on Wound
Rinsing a wound with seawater may seem like an effective emergency medical treatment, but this is far from the case.
Not only does saltwater contain bacteria that pose serious dangers in they enter open wounds, but it can also increase dehydration and make the healing process much more difficult than using traditional treatments such as sterile saline solution.
Additionally, the salt content in seawater can significantly increase a patient’s chances of developing an infection and may even make it worse if one has already taken hold.
The use of saline solutions plays an important role when treating wounds or administering medication on open cuts. This type of solution, which has a similar salt concentration to the human body – 0.9% saline – is designed specifically to harmonize with our natural state and not introduce new bacteria or other contaminants into an individual’s wounds.
In addition, the saline solution has been proven to be more effective in treating wounds and preventing infection than tap water or other fluids, according to multiple scientific studies conducted over the years.
Rinsing an open wound with sea salt is a terrible idea due to its concentration of bacteria as well as the introduction of ions, which can interfere with our body’s natural healing process.
Furthermore, salt water can cause dehydration which damages and fatigues cells in the affected area of a wound.
This lack of cellular energy will prevent collagen fibers from being replaced efficiently, as they are meant to when one has sustained an injury.
It is important to treat any injuries promptly with clean instruments that help avoid contamination or further infection. In this case specifically, however, it would be best to use a sterile saline solution rather than seawater if no other options were available for medical treatment.
Salt and Water Mix Fix
Now, we’ve established that salt water isn’t a good idea on open wounded skin. But it’s good for mouth sores, throat infections, and some other stuff too.
Some people may tell you to gargle with salt water to help with a sore throat or bleeding gums. It has been simple, cheap, and a common practice for a long time. For one thing, it doesn’t have any side effects. Some studies say that gargling with salt water can help you get better if you have mild health problems.
The tonsils are two lumpy tissues at the back of the throat that become inflamed due to bacterial or viral infection. Tonsillitis that is inflamed may make swallowing difficult. Gargling with salt water might provide pain relief and alleviate these symptoms.
Balance pH level
The salt and water mix aids in the neutralization of acids generated by bacteria in the throat.
It helps maintain a healthy pH balance in the mouth, preventing the development of many bacteria like Streptococci. Other mouth-dwelling species are salt-aware, which means they can’t stand it.
Nasal Congestion Relief
Gargling with salt water also helps remove mucus from the respiratory system and nasal cavity. The combination helps to alleviate inflammation and irritation in the throat. Apart from that, it washes out germs and viruses, which may cause congestion if left neglected.
Bad Breath Remedy
If you’re concerned about having foul breath, gargling with salt water may help you prevent it. It can wash away oral germs, which causes bad breath.
Irritated Gums and Aching Tooth
Warmed salt and water mixture also relieves bleeding and inflamed gums, which are the early indicators of bacterial gum disease.
Using saltwater to rinse your mouth may help decrease irritation and combat microorganisms. Toothaches may also be relieved by gargling with saltwater.
Making Salt-Water Mix
Blending these two substances is simple. To make salted water, you can mix a teaspoon of table salt with 250 mL or eight ounces of water. Again, make sure the water is clean, clear, and drinkable.
Also, you don’t need to use boiling hot. In some cases, mixing salt with warm water is necessary. Hot water does not make salt more effective. It only makes the salt dissolve more quickly.
For gargling, take a large sip of the mixture and keep it in your mouth for a few seconds. Then, for approximately 30 seconds, tilt your head back and gargle the saltwater in your throat.
You can follow the same procedure over and over again until you feel relief.
When you hear “putting salt on wounds,” know that it is only a metaphor for “making an already bad scenario even worse.”
It cannot be taken and done word-for-word as the wound may become more inflamed, and the microorganisms might cause an infection instead of eliminating it.
Wait until you get competent medical attention before using salt on your wounds. Instead, save the salt for your next meal.
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