Give Now  »

wfiu logo
WFIU Public Radio

wtiu logo
WTIU Public Television

Choose which station to support!

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

Noon Edition

Alcohol On A Wound

applying alcohol to papercut

Feel The Burn



Cleaning a wound can be very painful. Why does alcohol make a cut hurt so much?

Alcohol lowers the threshold of VR1. VR1 receptors are special kinds of cells in your skin that respond to heat.

Adding Ethanol To Injury



Studies have shown that ethanol-which is a kind of alcohol-causes skin cells to put out the same neurochemical signals they put out when heat is around. The result is that it doesn't take as much actual heat for the VR1's to turn on. Researchers have found that alcohol lowers the amount of heat needed to turn on VR1 receptors by almost 10Â degrees.

It isn't known for sure yet, but researchers think that ethanol may lower the threshold so much around inflamed tissue that your own body temperature kicks off the VR1 receptors. That means not only does the cut hurt, but it now feels like it's on fire as well.

Read More:



"Feel the Burn: Alcohol Sets Pain-Sensing Nerves Aflame" (Science News)

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science