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Paper cuts: Why do they hurt so much?

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, June 4, 2019  /  09:09 pm
Paper cuts: Why do they hurt so much?

Use plaster after a paper cut, as it provides protection against bacteria. (Shutterstock/oatawa)

It happens all the time: While folding letters or leafing through a book the paper suddenly cuts your finger and leaves a wound as fine as a hair.

Paper might seem harmless, but a paper cut comes unexpectedly and hurts a lot. Due to our sensitive nerve endings, we feel a sharp pain in the same way as when we touch something very hot.

But why is that, you may ask. According to Reader´s Digest, fingertips are among the most sensitive parts of our body, having the highest number of pain receptors (nociceptors). Taking in the sensation of touch, nerve endings send signals to the brain in case of an injury. The quicker and more intense this process takes place, the quicker and more painful is the pain.

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Compared to a knife or scalpel, paper does not cut straight and precisely. Even though the injury is shallow, the cut is deep enough to set off the nociceptors. As a result, it neither bleeds nor creates a slough, and the healing process takes longer.

“Fingertips are how we explore the world, how we do small, delicate tasks. So it makes sense that we have a lot of nerve endings there. It´s kind of a safety mechanism," explains UCLA dermatologist Hayley Goldbach.

As it's hard to avoid, take note that after a paper cut you should clean the wound to avoid any infection. Use plaster, as it provides protection against bacteria. After a few days, the wound should have healed. (sop/kes)