Nurse educating an elderly woman about: “Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?” while bandaging the patient’s arm with medical gauze

Do Wounds Heal Faster Covered or Uncovered?

No one likes to be injured. After the initial surgery or trauma concludes, your thoughts will most likely revolve around how to heal your wound quickly. Questions abound. Should you put ointment on a wound? Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? Should you air out a wound?

The internet has made these questions both easier and harder to answer at the same time. If you type in the query, “Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?”, you’ll get plenty of results.

But for every (often difficult to digest) scholarly article on wound care, there’s a forum full of anecdotal advice and age-old myths. There are lengthy debates, online and in real life, about how to care for wounds. So what’s the answer?

While grandma’s advice to “rub some dirt in it” is no longer held in high esteem, let’s bust some myths and discover the truth once and for all: Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?

Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?

“That’ll never heal if you don’t let it air out!” “A little air is good for a scrape.” There are endless variations of the same advice, which may leave you wondering: “Do wounds need air to heal?”

It’s no wonder you’re asking the question: “Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?” There is so much misinformation on the internet. But if you’re wondering: “Should you air out a wound?”, the answer is no. 

Do wounds need air to heal? Absolutely not. Your wound will receive oxygen from your bloodstream, not the surrounding air, so that isn’t something you need to worry about. 

The truth is that wounds don’t need to be left uncovered to heal. In fact, precise and repeated clinical studies show that wounds heal faster when covered. There are several reasons for this and while some are biological, others are easily observed. 

But I won’t make you read all those studies if you don’t want to. You’ll still be left wondering: “What does this mean? Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?” So let’s break down the science behind why it's a good idea to cover your wounds.  

Why is it good to cover a wound? 

Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? The answer is: covered. 

But why? 

Covering a wound prevents bacteria from entering the wound site. When a wound is left open, it comes into contact with all kinds of bacteria – just like the rest of your skin. 

Think of your skin like a screen door. The screen keeps out bugs and other undesirable things, but if there’s a tear in your screen, the bugs can fly straight into your house! If there is a tear in your skin, such as a wound, you need to create a barrier to keep out those bugs. 

Your skin actually creates its own natural barrier, known as a scab. But scabs take some time to form, and are vulnerable during the healing process, so it’s important to help them along. 

Once a scab forms, the risk of bacteria entering is lower, but you run into other concerns - like itchiness. 

Wound healing is itchy business, but picking at a scab will make your wound take longer to heal. This reintroduces the problem of bacteria and can increase the risk of permanent scars. Even if you leave your scab alone –no itching or picking at all– you’re not out of the woods.

Your body makes scabs tough to ensure that all bacteria stays out, but it’s a double-edged sword. That hard scab can make growing fresh new cells more difficult. This means that your healing process can take even longer! 

So do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? There’s no question. They heal faster covered, because a bandage protects from bacteria, prevents direct itching and picking, and keeps your scabs soft and moist.

Won’t covering my wound lead to infection?

You may be wondering: “Don’t bacteria thrive in moist environments?” “Wouldn’t it be better to keep my wound aired out and dry?”

There is no evidence to suggest that covering a wound increases infection risk.

Most likely, people think that covering a wound will lead to infection because of cases where bandages were not changed. Not changing bandages regularly can lead to the wound staying too wet, which can cause infection. 

Keeping that bandage on for days or weeks at a time leaves your wound in a dark, moist place. No matter how clean your wound was before putting on the bandage, bacteria or fungus can creep in over time. And both bacterial and fungal infections do thrive in dark, moist conditions.

Also, if you keep a bandage on for too long, the bandage can soak up (and hold onto) moisture. This can be a problem because one of the signs of a healing wound is the discharge of dead cells and bacteria. 

When you don’t change your bandage regularly, your wound could be sitting in that bacteria, which can spell trouble for your wound. 

So do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? This whole “damp and dark” situation must change the answer, right? Nope! 

As long as you are changing your bandages frequently to keep your wound clean, wounds still heal faster when covered. 

Now you’re probably wondering how long to keep a wound covered, and how frequently you should change bandages. You may also be wondering what else you can do to speed up wound healing now that we have answered the question: “Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?”

Let’s go into the basics of proper wound care, and how you can speed up your wound healing. 

How should I treat my wound?

There are three steps you should take to make sure your wound heals properly and doesn’t get infected. These steps are:

Step one: Clean your wound 

It’s time to clear up another misconception – can you put alcohol on wounds?   

The answer is a resounding no

You should never put rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on a wound. These substances can damage healthy tissue and wreak havoc on damaged tissue. So make sure to skip the alcohol.

To clean your wound properly, you should use gentle soap and warm, clean water. If your wound is large or in a hard-to-reach place, you can even get in the shower to make sure it’s well-rinsed.

Step two: Keep your wound moist

Moist wounds heal faster than dry ones. If you want to help your wound heal faster, you can moisten and protect it with petroleum jelly. This will prevent the bandage from sticking to your wound and can help keep your skin tissue healthy.

Step three: Cover your wound 

Remember: Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? They heal faster covered. So that’s the third step to proper wound care! 

Cover your wound with a clean bandage and make sure to replace the bandage daily. 

My wound is covered, now what?

By now, you definitely know the answer to the question: “Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?” 

But there’s another question left to answer. Now that your wound is covered, you need to know how long to keep a wound covered. 

Generally speaking, you can remove the coverings permanently after about 5 days. After that point, your wound should be healed sufficiently enough to be exposed again. If it hasn’t, look for advice on what to do if a wound won’t heal and seek medical advice. 

You should also talk to your doctor if:

  • Your wound starts to smell
  • You have a fever of over 100℉
  • Your wound shows excessive swelling 
  • Your wound is so painful it interferes with your daily life

These can all be signs of infection, which can be combated by following the tips above. You can also try an ointment for wound healing.

Are ointments good for my wound?

We’ve recommended using petroleum jelly, but what about other ointments? Could you use something like Neosporin or another antibiotic ointment instead? Isn’t that better for healing your wound?

Simply put, no. Or at least, they don’t have an edge on regular petroleum jelly. A study conducted by the Departments of Dermatology, Clinical Investigation, and Pharmacy at JAMA found regular petroleum jelly to have equal healing effects to medicated ointment.  

So save yourself a couple of bucks and get the regular stuff. Medicated ointment won’t hurt your wound, but it won’t help it heal faster than petroleum jelly, either. 

Does that mean you should just put on a dry bandage? That’s a big no! When you put a dry bandage on, it’s likely to stick to your wound. More importantly, it’ll stick to the freshly grown cells your body is working so hard on. Then, when you go to change your bandage, the old bandage will tear those fresh cells off and reopen the wound. 

Wait, then do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? Wouldn’t it be worse to cover it if a bandage can cause damage to the new cells?

Nope, wounds still heal faster when covered, as long as they’re covered correctly. This means using a sterile bandage, changing it once a day, and applying petroleum jelly or a similar ointment liberally to prevent sticking.

So now that you have the basics down, you might be wondering if there is anything else you can do to make your wound heal faster.

The answer is yes!

What else can I do to speed up wound healing?

You now know the answer to a bunch of questions, like: “Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?” and “How do you properly dress a wound?” You even know how long to keep a wound covered, and what you can do to keep wounds clean.

Now, let’s discuss how you can help speed up wound healing. 

Wound healing time will look a bit different from person to person. For example, diabetes wound healing in an elderly individual will look totally different to healing a scraped knee on a 3-year-old.

But one thing is the same across the board. Diet plays a big part in how your wound heals. 

There have been studies on a plant-based diet and wound healing, a Ketogenic diet and wound healing, and more. With intermittent fasting showing health benefits, there have even been studies to answer the question, “Do wounds heal faster when fasting?

One thing is for sure, though. Your body uses a lot of energy to heal itself when wounded. That means it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough rest, water, and nutrients. One of the often-overlooked nutrients that can speed wound healing is collagen. 

Collagen is a protein vital to the health of all your connective tissues, including your muscles, ligaments, and skin. It’s the most prevalent protein in the human body, and is critical in the production of new skin cells which is why doctors use collagen in wound healing for all types of wounds from mild to severe.

Medical-grade collagen products, like ProT Gold, are trusted by thousands of medical facilities across the United States for use in medical nutrition. Taking a daily collagen supplement might be what your body needs to speed up its natural wound healing process. 

So to sum it all up:

Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? Covered. 

Do wounds need air to heal? No.

Do medicated ointments work better than petroleum jelly? No. 

How can you speed up wound healing?

Your wound will heal more quickly when you take steps such as cleaning, covering, and giving it the nutrients it needs. This can include your regular diet, as well as daily vitamins or collagen supplements. 

Once your wound is covered, and you are getting proper nutrition for wound healing, your body should have all the tools it needs to heal your wound swiftly.