Super Glue was created in the 1940's and has provided quick bonding power for everything from plastic to wood to some metals.
It also has a first aid application – if you use it correctly; here is how!
What Kind of Superglue Can Be Used to Seal a Cut?
Super glue is a common term to describe a household adhesive. The medical stuff is quite a bit different and spawned due to two significantly adverse side effects;
1. When applied, the glue creates a exothermic reaction (basically heat) when curing; this can damage the surrounding tissue and make the situation worse.
2. The curing processes releases cyanoacetate and formaldehyde, which irritate the eyes, lungs, throat & nose.
As a consequence of these side effects, new adhesives were invented to minimize these reactions that are designed expressly for medical and surgical uses. They come in 2 common compositions from different manufacturers, but all have increased strength, generate far less irritation when used on skin, and are much superior when it comes to flexibility – which as you can imagine is quite useful!
The two medical grade super glues are:
1. 2-octyl cyanoacrylate (rated for the closure of wounds and surgical incision and as a barrier against common bacterial microbes)
• Dermabond (probably the most ubiquitous one)
2. n-butyl cyanoacrylate (Very similar to 2-octyl but less rigid, more flexible, and consequently not as strong)
• Periacryl (as a dental adhesive)
These 2 types of medical grade superglue should really be the ones you use for medical applications. “Regular” super glue – like Krazy Glue or Loctite (methy-2-cyanoacrylate or ethyl-2-cyanoacrylate) are not designed for with medical application in mind, and thus the previously discussed side effects, as well as greatly reduced flexibility, make them an inferior choice for sealing cuts.
When Should You Use Super Glue to Seal a Cut?
You should use super glue instead of bandages when you have shallow lacerations/cuts. If your cut is under 3/4 of an inch in length, it might be fine to use super glue – any more than that, you should take a pass on trying to use super glue. You should use super glue only if the flow of blood is minor. If you’re bleeding a lot, you probably shouldn’t risk it if there are alternatives around.
Paper cuts and light cuts from sharp knives are the best candidates for super glue over the use of band-aids. The small cuts typically heal completely over the span of 24 hours.
Also use super glue only when you are comfortable doing so. If you are worried you won’t be able to super glue your cut properly – say your hands are shaking or you just don’t feel confident you’ll be able to do it by yourself – pass and use a bandage or stitches, or seek medical help from a professional instead. Don’t ever do anything you’re uncomfortable with. Cuts can get infected and infected cuts are dangerous.
Guide to Using Super Glue
1. First and foremost, always irrigate wounds and use a disinfectant (alcohol works) before sealing with medical glue. You really don’t want to trap all sorts of nasty things inside what is essentially an acrylic bubble with direct access to your bloodstream. Check out my full article on infected cuts for a refresher of the signs of infection and why you should be super careful from the start; infection is no joke.
2. Make sure the cut is an ideal candidate for super glue (see sections “When Should You Use Super Glue to Seal a Cut?” and “When Shouldn’t You Use Super Glue to Seal a Cut?” to figure out how – and if you haven’t yet read them cause you were skimming – tsk, tsk!!)
3. Proceed to wait until bleeding has subsided by applying pressure around the wound. If the wound is acting like a faucet, it’s a pretty good sign that you need to get to a hospital to get a doctor to patch you up ASAP with some stitches! Otherwise, if the bleeding subsides, proceed to the next step.
4. Gently bring the wound closed without using excessive pressure. Essentially, use a delicate pinch. A natural seal is all that is required, so don’t get crazy and clamp down to the point of bruising. I mention this because I have seen a friend overdo the pinching “to make sure nothing gets in.” Not a good idea and definitely not needed.
5. Apply a thin layer of the superglue and wait for the super glue to cure. This will create an impermeable layer above the wound. If you add too much glue too quickly, the super glue will take a longer time to cure, and that’s really not ideal. So again, thin layer and don’t overdo it. You can always add a little more if it’s needed (though it probably won’t be).
6. Don’t be an idiot like me and try peeling off the super glue yourself. Wait for the super glue to fall off naturally. And it will. You just have to be patient (unlike me!). Scratching away at the top layer of superglue is a terribly bad idea because you’re running the completely unnecessary risk of re-opening the wound, potentially getting it infected, and then needing to start the process of disinfecting and sealing all over again (guess how I know!).
Things to be Wary of When Using Super Glue to Seal Cuts
• I have sometimes had blood trapped under the seal of superglue turn black and look pretty damn unappealing. It will go away by itself. Our bodies are pretty resilient, but if you notice any pain and/or discomfort please go to the E.R.!
• Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t pour half the tub of glue just because you think it will help – it won’t. Less is more. It’s better to apply a little bit of super glue at a time and wait for the super glue to dry into a solid seal. Sometimes you will add too much accidentally because you’re nervous – refrain from adding more as it will only make matters worse (make it take more time to cure/dry and seal properly). I am guilty of sometimes putting on too much super glue and it really just makes your job harder.
• A times, for whatever reason, the wound starts to bleed again after you’ve put on super glue, and somehow mixes with the still curing super glue. It will look messed up, but in practice, this is pretty much harmless. Just let it set and don’t scratch at it, and the super glue will fall of harmlessly.
• If you ever need to remove superglue for whatever reason, you can use acetone (nail polish remover) to do this. Remember that acetone is an irritant (putting it on your cut will sting) so try not to get yourself in this situation in the first place.
• This may sound obvious, but watch your fingers after using superglue. It’s pretty common for people to rub their eyes without thinking and, needless to say, the consequences can be dire.
A couple more things:
- Super Glue is not a disinfectant – If your wound has bacteria or parasites in it to start, the glue will just keep them bonded inside you.
- If you have doubts about using Super Glue for a cut – DON'T!!! Go get help!
- Ideally, using Super Glue is an Emergency Measure that you only use if you have no other reasonable alternatives!
- Except for the most minor of cuts or abrasions, as soon as you can, you should seek medical attention
- This did not cover When Not to Use Super Glue – You should use the bullet point above and common sense as your guide!
To learn more about using Super Glue to address minor cuts and abrasions, please visit More Than Just Surviving!
Featured Image via More Than Just Surviving