Thank you for your letter. This is something that a lot of young people who self-harm wonder about. It’s always really important to keep yourself as safe as possible if you are self-harming, so well done for asking the question!
First, I have to let you know that we can’t give you medical advice at ChildLine, because the counsellors and I are not medically trained, but I can give you some very general information.
Any injury you have can get infected by germs that live on the surface of your skin, or on the things you use to self-harm. Breaking the skin when you self-harm means that the bacteria has a chance to get into your body and grow there. That can cause infection, which can be really sore and lead to further skin damage and scarring, as well as possibly causing more serious health problems.
When the ChildLine counsellors ask people if they know how to take care of their wounds, they are really wondering if they are keeping them clean as possible (by making sure they don’t use dirty tools) and by cleaning the wounds when they have stopped bleeding. It’s also important to get urgent medical help if the bleeding doesn’t stop.
If you need more information about taking care of injuries, then you can visit NHS Choices. If you wanted to talk more about self-harm, then the counsellors at ChildLine would always be really pleased to support you. They understand that self-harm often results from coping with some really difficult feelings. Talking about those difficult feelings can be a good way of starting to feel more in control. You can get in touch by calling 0800 1111, by logging in for a 1-2-1 chat or by sending an email.
I hope this helps,