Superglue: AMA-Recognized Maker Ouch-Aid

Superglue: AMA-Recognized Maker Ouch-Aid

Firefly Workshop’s Craig Smith described how he seals small wounds with the help of superglue:

I read that the American Medical Association now recognizes superglue as a medical aid. For cuts that are deep, but not requiring stitches, or in an area where stitches are tricky, superglue is used. Funny thing was that I had been aware of this trick several years earlier. It annoyed me that even with a band-aid, I had a wound that would not close and healing time was slow. So now I gently clean the wound with anti-bacterial soap, rinse and dry. With a drop of glue on a piece of plastic (paper will absorb it) I hold the wound closed and drag a bit of glue on a toothpick across the cut. Two or three ‘stitches’ across the cut does the job. Do not go along with the cut. Do not totally seal the cut. Amazingly, heal time is a day or two. And best part is you can go back to your project almost immediately after your boo-boo.

You’re probably better off consulting an actual doctor than a blog post, so if you get an ouchie, be safe!

50 thoughts on “Superglue: AMA-Recognized Maker Ouch-Aid

  1. VRAndy says:

    I’d be a little nervous using off-the-shelf super-glue on an open wound.
    Are there any makers of medical grade super-glue that are intended for home first aid kits? 

    1. Phelps says:

      Dermabond.  The only difference is that superglue is about $5 a tube, and Dermabond is about $45. They are both tubes of cyanoacrylate.

      1. VRAndy says:

        Yea, but I’d wonder if they have the same purity and quality control?
        In my ignorance of how the stuff is made, I would worry that the glue would have some minor additive that would be fantastic for model airplanes, but less so for my bloodstream.

        Dermabond. I’ll look that up. Sounds like a good addition to the first-aid kit I keep near my workbench.

        1. Phelps says:

          One is butyl based, and one is ethyl based.  Other than that, there’s no difference, and there’s no real difference in performance.  

          Here’s the MSDS:  


          The LD50 (the point where overdose/toxicity is an issue) is 2g, which is an ENTIRE tube.  So, yeah, if you smear an entire tube on (some sort of fetishist?) you might have a toxicity problem, but otherwise, you should be fine for closing wounds.  If you have to use an entire tube to close your wounds, toxicity from super glue is the LEAST of your problems.

          1. restifo says:

            That’s 2 g per kg body mass. One tube is essentially nothing, baring some allergic reaction. Of course, there’s the issue of pulling out your body hair as you remove the glue….;^)

          2. VRAndy says:

            Ok, (And, again, pardon my ignorance) but is “dermal” contact the same as putting it on an open wound?

            (And, to be clear, LD50 is clearly NOT the “the point where overdose/toxicity is an issue”, it’s well past it.)

          3. Phelps says:

            Dermal contact is the same as putting it on a minor wound. If you have a major wound, put down the superglue and get a hemostat bandage like qwikclot.

            Seriously, you are being way, way too neurotic about this. It is a cut. You are putting a tiny amount of glue on it. It is a lue that is accelarated by contact with water (and therefore blood). It isnt going into your bloodstream. It is going to cure long before then.

            If anything, it’s exothermic reaction is more of an issue — but if you are bleeding bad enough and using enough glue to make enough heat to burn you, again, a burn is the least of your worries. At that point, you should be worried about bleeding out before you get enough on you to burn.

            Or you can just say eff it and use a butterfly bandage.

  2. Benoit Essiambre says:

    Apparently it is quite often used in surgery. I imagine they would have some kind of medical grade stuff for that.

    It is worth nothing that superglue hardens when in contact with water. It takes a while to cure in open air since it has to absorb the rare water molecules floating around but cures almost instantly when in contact with a wound since humans are 70% water. This is also why it is so easy to get your fingers stuck together with it. It will bind instantly to anything containing moisture.

    1. Joseph Cummings (@fotoflojoe) says:

      Hmm… That would explain why super glue sometimes doesn’t act so “super” when I use it in my extremely dehumidified shop. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Fergus Gallagher says:

    I’ve used super-glue for years.  My left index finger has had 3 “major” knife wounds – the  two older ones have visible scars 20+ years on but the most recent (and worst) was super-glued and is completely gone.

    I also had some really painful cracked heels and the super-glue sorted that out a charm.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I read about this decades ago in a rock climbing magazine.  I’ve been using it ever since.  It works particularly well on the cracks I get on my fingers during the winter. 

  5. Dave Brunker says:

    Just one warning, keep super glue away from cotton or wool.  I’ve heard super glue will get really hot when it touches cotton or wool.

    1. Rahere says:

      Another tip on superglue: keep it in the freezer, it stops it going off in the tube/bottle. And yes, been there, done that, and was surprised with the speed of the result.

  6. Anonymous says:

    We are exposed to such gross quantities of toxic chemicals in our daily lives that a few drops of superglue are as drops in the ocean- the only thing special about “medical grade” superglue is the price (2 decades in Military and American Healthcare teaches you a thing or two).  I have repaired many wounds with superglue- results in minimal scarring if you clean the wound well prior to closing. Anti-bacterial soap is counter-productive in a healthy person (killing our good bacteria aids “bad” bacteria). Duct tape makes an excellent bandage protector.

  7. Michael kim says:

    superglue was originally made to seal up wounds in WW2

    1. Rahere says:

      Sadly, that’s not true. Although it was developed in the 1940s as a possible plastic to replace glass in sights (glass splinters being bad news), it did not become generally available until the 1960s as a glue.

  8. Camilla Fox says:

    I find it especially useful to repair a broken fingernail.

  9. Robert Maxwell says:

    I created a huge flap in the end of my thumb while peeling carrots (doh!).  Once I got the bleeding stopped with direct pressure, superglue nicely held the flap in place while my thumb healed, allowing for much more normal use, no bandaids required.

    Now I’m going to go superglue some cotton and see what happens…

  10. Robert Reese Benner says:

    I am a surgeon and use Dermabond all the time. I also have used super-glue on myself, kids and pets. I don’t worry a bit about toxicity. The price difference, I suspect has more to do with marketing and liability than anything else.

  11. Andrew Dodd says:

    Brings back memories – I had a small head wound (hockey puck impact to polycarbonate glasses lenses) glued up over a decade ago.

    The repair was fast – The incident happened in pregame (hockey player that had not yet learned the puck goes in the net, not the pepband), and I was back from the hospital by third period of the game.

    On top of that – no scar whatsoever.

  12. Joseph Pitz says:

    Ok Make,  You guys should really do some research before you allow users to make such broad claims about what the AMA claims.  Off the shelf super glue is really 
     methyl 2-cyanoacrylate, ethyl-2-cyanoacrylate.  What the AMA is referring to is 
     2-octyl cyanoacrylate.  Big difference,  The methyl, and ethyl contains alcohol and can be irritating to some people’s skin,  It may cause cell death around the point of use.

    That is why there are medical and  veterinary forms of super glue. ie: 

    n-butyl cyanoacrylate and   2-octyl cyanoacrylate

    Some humans may exhibit the skin irritation, others may not.

    Here are two references for you:

    Also go to the AMA web site and do a search for  cyanoacrylate , you will not find any reference.  See above AMA document.

    You can purchase Dermabond from, a brand of 2-octyl cyanoacrylate.

    Come on guys and gals!!!

  13. cybergibbons says:

    I don’t understand why people have this in their first aid kits. I’ve seen several amateur surgeons now with nasty scars due to poor application of normal superglue to close a wound. It also tends to be that people don’t clean the wound well. Anything that needs closure needs to be thoroughly clean, or you risk infection. I’d rather have a scar than no scar and sepsis.

    Just keep some wound closure strips and tisept (for the general skin area) and saline (for the wound itself) sachets for irrigating the wound prior to closure. They are much easier to apply neatly and with one hand.
    There is evidence that normal superglue is more likely to irritate.

  14. wildmedic says:

    Looking at it from a chemical standpoint, the only difference between hardware superglue and Dermabond is the molecular structure. Does it matter? My GF served two tours in the Middle East and says that it burns when applied, but works. There are convincing arguments for both sides; some folks think that superglue causes skin irritation and possibly burns, others think the lack of FDA approval is due to money and the research process required to get approval. Bottom line; it’s not ideal, but I can’t find any research that indicates it’s dangerous. In any case, it should only be used on superficial cuts; deeper cuts need to be well-cleaned and irrigated, then appropriately dressed and bandaged. (I teach wilderness medicine, and just realized I kinda slanted this post towards that respect. If you have a deep cut and you’re close to a hospital, stop the bleeding with direct pressure and go to an ER so it can be cleaned and closed by a physician or PA. Three hours is typically considered a time limit for having a wound being “closeable” in the frontcountry.)

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