My grandmother was a saint — hopefully yours was too. However, there are four things she told me that she got wrong, which we still hear from our patients occasionally. So, with all due respect to my grandmother:


Don’t pick your scabs.

My grandmother told me not to pick scabs. This is wrong. A scab is essentially a mass of hardened blood protein that seals the skin but also interferes with healing and a good cosmetic result. 

The reason is that the scab gets in the way of the skin cells at the wound’s edges, creating new skin to cover the damaged area. 

It’s better if you don’t let a scab form in the first place — that’s a topic for another day — but when you do have a scab, we advise soaking a 4 x 4 pad with some hydrogen peroxide and putting it over the scab for a bit to soften it. Then, gently remove the scab. If there’s bleeding when you do this, use another clean 4 x 4 pad to keep pressure on the area until the bleeding stops. It won’t take long.

See all the normal skin at the edge of the wound? It consists of individual skin cells that yearn to unite with their buddies on the other side of the wound to cover it with healthy skin or, worst case, a small scar. To do that, they need a moist environment. Give them what they need by applying a thin film of Vaseline — you don’t need an antibiotic ointment for this — and then a simple bandage. Reapply the Vaseline and the bandage twice daily, and you’ll be rewarded with happy skin cells and minimal scarring. 


Expose a cut to the air.

The second thing my grandmother said was to “let the air get to the wound.” This, too, is wrong. Those delicate skin cells can’t reproduce effectively without the bit of moisture the Vaseline and bandage provide. So, while decreasing the Vaseline and bandage treatment to once a day as healing proceeds is OK, don’t let the wound dry out.


Wearing a coat when it’s cold will prevent colds.

You’ve heard this before: If you go out in the winter without a coat, you’ll catch a cold. Props to my grandmother for baking the best strawberry cake in the world, but she missed the lecture on germ theory. Colds are caused by exposure to viruses, not by being cold. So, wear a coat when it’s cold, because who wants to be uncomfortable? But your cold symptoms didn’t come from the weather; they came from a virus the people around you were carrying.


Don’t blow your nose when you have a nosebleed.

Over the years, we’ve heard about every way to treat a nosebleed, including putting ice on the bony bridge of the nose, stuffing the nose with Kleenex, and putting a piece of raw steak on the back of the neck. Aside from wasting ice, tissue, and meat, none of these will help. And we’ve all heard the admonition against blowing your nose when it’s bleeding. 

In fact, here’s what we tell our patients: First, go to the sink and blow your nose. Yes, blood will come out, but so will blood clots. Second, if you have oxymetazoline nose spray (Afrin), squirt some of that into the side that’s bleeding. Then, whether you have the Afrin or not, using your thumb and index finger, squeeze the soft, fleshy part of your nose together for 15 minutes. Don’t put Kleenex in your nose because when you pull it out, it’s likely to cause the bleeding to start again. If your nose is still bleeding, do the same thing again, but hold pressure for 30 minutes this time. And if the bleeding continues, speak to your doctor pronto.


Two things my grandmother got right.

First, homemade vegetable soup is excellent when you have a cold.

And the second? Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.


The information posted on this blog and website are for general information only and should never be relied on as specific medical advice for an individual reader.  No financial relationship exists between us and any recommended products or persons mentioned. All material contained here is the property of the Sheldon Sowell Center for Health, PC, and cannot be copied, reprinted, or linked to without our express permission.

Phone: 303-789-4949
Fax: 303-789-7495
1780 South Bellaire Street #700
Denver, CO 80222