Super glue for cuts?

Originally Published: April 27, 2012
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How dangerous is it to use super glue for a cut?

Dear Reader,

Super glue is one of the most versatile chemical compounds out there. It can be used on large pieces of wood and on small runs in nylons. It can even be used to preserve snowflakes. Super glue is incredibly powerful. Most people who have used it have probably gotten some on their fingers and noticed how well it serves as a “second skin.” But can it be used on human skin repairs as easily as household repairs? The quick answer is that, even though it can work well, it should generally be avoided for these purposes.

Super glue as a treatment for wounds began during the Vietnam War when emergency medics would use it to seal wounds and stop bleeding. Today, athletes sometimes use it on minor injuries to stop bleeding quickly or to pad blisters. Some dermatologists even maintain that glue may lead to less scarring than stitches. Not to mention, it’s cheap, painless, and easy to come by. But wait! Before you sniff the super glue kool aid, it does have some potentially undesirable side effects. Depending on how it’s applied, super glue can get into the cut and interfere with healing or aggravate infection. It can kill off cells and it can cause further complications, especially if you are allergic to it. And it only works well on some types of wounds and on some areas of the skin. In 2001, the FDA approved a very similar chemical with antibacterial properties called 2-octyl-cyanoacrylate, marketed as Dermabond. It’s available with a prescription and is typically applied by a health care provider.

Even though it’s not advised, for those who still wish to experiment at home, use it only on small minor cuts, like paper cuts. Seal the wound with your fingers then apply a small dab on the top of the cut. It should form a seal over the top. Avoid getting it on your fingers so that you’re not “stuck” trying to free your fingers from the site of the wound. If your fingers do get stuck together, do not try to pry them apart. Slowly and gently roll your fingers together and eventually the bonds will come apart. Super glue should never be used on:

  • Lips
  • Genitals
  • Cuts over joints
  • Cuts over tight skin (like forehead)
  • Wounds with a high risk of infection like animal bites
  • Deep wounds that involve damage to muscles or tendons

So save your super glue for the bird house, unless you’re really in a pinch.

Alice