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This may seem like an odd question, but I was wondering if it's safe or a good idea to rinse road rash with iced coffee or other drinks? My usual strategy for road rash is to clean the fresh wound as soon as possible as thoroughly as possible, but normally I'd use water (and soap if available).

However, on my commute to work today I came across a fellow cyclist who'd just wiped out (biking fast around a wet corner, wheels slipped out from under him when he hit a slippery patch). He had some nasty road rash on his leg and elbow. He slid half on pavement, half on wet dirt, so the wound was pretty dirty. The only liquid I had with me on my commute is iced coffee (with milk and sugar). I offered him the coffee to rinse his leg and he declined, but he did use the packet of neosporin I gave him (which seemed of limited usefulness given how dirty the wound was). His bike was ok and he was able to ride on to work and said he'd have someone look at his leg later.

So anyway, I was wondering if cleaning a wound immediately with coffee (or other drinks, like tea, Gatorade, Coke, etc) is a good idea or if it would be better to just wait until I get to home/work to clean it with soap and water? I'd do a thorough cleaning at home regardless, but is there any benefit to cleaning immediately after the crash even if I don't have any water available? Also, is the answer different if I'm facing a 2 or 3 hour walk to better facilities rather than a 20 - 30 minute ride?

And a related question, what else could I carry in my commute bag that would be useful for situations like this -- wet wipes?

I did come across this related post on treating road rash, but it doesn't address what to do at the time of the accident:

What do you do to cure road rash more quickly after a crash?

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Personally, I'd avoid anything with any sugar or anything else bacteria or fungus could thrive on. –  freiheit Apr 12 '13 at 18:50
    
@freiheit That was my initial thought too, but a quick googling proved me wrong. Sugar is an effective anti-bacterial agent, at least by itself. I'm not sure what difference it might make when dissolved in water along with other ingredients. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17708384 –  jimirings Apr 12 '13 at 18:55
    
I'd also avoid the milk; basically, if the drink has calories, it's probably not a good candidate for wound rinsing. Interestingly enough, urine is a good field expedient as it's sterile. –  Ken Hiatt Apr 12 '13 at 18:56
    
Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, sugar and honey have been used to prevent infection. Though at much higher concentrations than what's in a typical drink, so I wouldn't count on gatorade killing any bacteria, but it might not make things worse. wiki.answers.com/Q/… –  Johnny Apr 12 '13 at 18:57
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@jimirings: Sugar, and concentrated solutions of it such as honey, are effective against germs because they suck the water out of them by osmosis, and that kills them. Dilute solutions of sugar, such as Gatorade or iced coffee, won't have that effect. –  Tom Anderson Apr 13 '13 at 12:14
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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Plain black coffee would be okay; it's just water and it should be nearly sterile. However, I would definitely avoid coffee that contains milk, sugar or other additives that can support bacteria growth.

Now, this is going to come as a bit of a surprise, but what is an excellent wound cleanser is urine. Yeah, yeah, I know. But other than the ewwww factor, it's nearly perfect. It's warm, sterile*, and near isotonic. Naturally, the guy's not likely to agree to let you urinate on him, but he can do it himself.

*Assuming the person is healthy.

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In some states urinating in public could land you on the registered sex offenders list... –  jlund3 Apr 12 '13 at 20:31
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Thanks! I knew about the urine thing, but I'm certainly not going to offer to pee on the leg of a stranger, I'd call 911 before going that far :) But I still wonder if milk & sugar really is worse than mud and dirt in a wound. –  Johnny Apr 12 '13 at 20:40
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Assuming that the person is healthy is a pretty tough assumption when they're peeing on you. –  WTHarper Apr 12 '13 at 21:01
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@WTHarper - If they're peeing on you they're probably healtier (or at least more sober) than you are. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 12 '13 at 21:41
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In my experience, the person peeing in public (or on others or themselves) tends to be much less sober than those that aren't publicly peeing. –  Johnny Apr 12 '13 at 21:47
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I would say that any drinkable liquid is better than nothing at all. Given a choice, one would pick a beverage without sugar or dairy in it, and acidic drinks (especially carbonated) are apt to sting quite a bit.

But cleaning the wound reasonably quickly is fairly important for promoting healing, and there's nothing inherently harmful in any standard beverage -- if you can drink it, it should be good for wound cleaning. (Though with sugar/dairy beverages one should probably wash with pure water ASAP.)

(I try to make sure I always have some pure water, for first aid use.)

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My advice is not to clean with anything else but clean water (or desinfection aid, of course).

Why? Because you do not know the effect and if it is save to clean this way. Assume that the person with a wound maybe has allergies - what will happen if you clean the wound with milk or apple juice, and a allergic reaction occurs? This will make things even worse!

  • If you are in a city (like mentioned in your question) when such a crash occurs, and you do not have any water with you, you can go in the next pub, store, whatever, and ask for some water to clean the wound.
  • If you are travelling longer trips or outside a city (where you should have some water with you anyway), you can use urine as wound cleaner. You may find it disgusting, but if it is a real emergency situation, you will not care about that.
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Aren't you going to give me a citation for the urine thing? ;-) –  Carey Gregory Apr 16 '13 at 2:22
    
@CareyGregory Doing a quick google search showed a lot of usable results, and I added a link in my answer. –  Uooo Apr 16 '13 at 4:14
    
Did you miss the smiley? I was kidding. –  Carey Gregory Apr 16 '13 at 4:20
    
@CareyGregory Aaah didn't get that ;D –  Uooo Apr 16 '13 at 5:13
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