Super Glue in your First Aid Kit

When I teach First Aid classes, I’m often asked “Is it true you can use Super Glue to close wounds?”

It was during the Vietnam War that field medics first started to use a new type of glue as a fast emergency skin closure. It did prove highly effective at controlling major bleeding and sealing smaller cuts to get soldiers back into battle. It also claims to reduce scarring.

Today, many years later, Super Glue (cyanacrylate) is more likely to be used to repair a broken teapot, loose trim on your car or assembling a model airplane. Super Glue is still considered a useful skin closure by some veterinarians and some professional athletes who just want to get back into the game fast.

So should we have a vial of Super Glue in our first aid kits? Well I think we need to look at why CA glue is not generally sold as a first aid product, after all if it’s so good you would expect to see it commonly in first aid kits and on the first aid shelves of your local drug store.SuperGlue

  • Anyone who has used Super Glue aka CA Glue will understand one of it’s biggest problems. Unless you’re very careful, it gets on everything and you may easily find dressings, instruments or yourself attached to your patient.
  • It can also irritate and damage skin cells which means it stings and can result in additional tissue damage.
  • If an improperly cleaned wound is sealed, it can lead to other problems such as infection, especially with deeper wounds.
  • If a wound that has been sealed with CA Glue has to be seen by a doctor, they will first have to try to remove all the hardened glue. Neither the doctor or your patient will be happy with your choice of skin closure!

A product called Dermabond, which is an improved medical version of CA Glue was approved by the US FDA in 2001 which addresses some but not all of the problems. It must not be used on wounds that are jagged, prone to moisture or contaminated. Before sealing a wound with Dermabond it must be absolutely clean which immediately rules out it’s use on bites, punctures, deep or contaminated wounds. Wounds on hands or joints cannot be adequately sealed as the constant movement will cause the seal to break. If you’re looking at this and thinking … “That doesn’t leave much that can be sealed with glue” … you’re right and this is why it’s never become a mainstream product for first aid use.

The bottom line is, CA Glue does work but has significant limitations and if used inappropratey can be problematic. If you really want to use it, use Dermabond because it’s designed for medical use. However when asked by students I tell them that in my personal opinion, you’re better off to use more conventional first aid measures for wound management.

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