- Cuts, Scrapes (Abrasions), and Puncture Wounds Center
- First Aid Sprains & Strains Slideshow Pictures
- First Aid Essentials Slideshow
- Take the Trauma and First Aid Quiz
- Patient Comments: Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds - Experience
- Patient Comments: Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds - Medical Care
Cuts, scrapes (abrasions), and puncture wounds facts
- Washing a cut or scrape with soap, and water and keeping it clean and dry is all that is required to care for most wounds.
- Cleaning the wound with hydrogen peroxide and iodine is acceptable initially, but can delay healing and should be avoided long-term.
- Apply antibiotic ointment and keep the wound covered.
- Seek medical care within 6 hours if the bleeding does not stop, as the wound might need stitches.
- A delay can increase the rate of wound infection.
- Any puncture wound through tennis shoes or sneakers has a high risk of infection and should be seen by a doctor.
- Any redness, swelling, increased pain, fever, red streaking, or pus draining from the wound may indicate an infection that requires medical care.
What is the best first aid for a cut or scrape?
The first step in the care of cuts, scrapes (abrasions) is to stop the bleeding. Most wounds respond to direct pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. Hold the pressure continuously for approximately 10 to 20 minutes. If this fails to stop the bleeding or if bleeding is rapid, seek medical assistance.
Next, thoroughly clean the wound with soap and water. Remove any foreign material in the wound, such as dirt, or bits of grass, which may lead to infection. Tweezers can be used (clean them with alcohol first) to remove foreign material from the wound edges, but do not dig into the wound as this may push bacteria deeper into the wound or injure subcutaneous (under the skin) structures. The wound may also be gently scrubbed with a washcloth to remove dirt and debris. Hydrogen peroxide and povidone-iodine (Betadine) products may be used to clean the wound initially, but may inhibit wound healing if used long-term.
Cover the area with a bandage (such as gauze or a Band-Aid) to help prevent infection and dirt from getting in the wound. A first aid antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin, Neosporin, Polysporin) can be applied to help prevent infection and keep the wound moist.
Continued care to the wound is also important. Three times a day, wash the area gently with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, and re-cover with a bandage. Change the bandage immediately if it gets dirty or wet.
Quick GuideCuts and Scrapes: Caring for Wounds in Pictures
Who should seek medical care for a cut?
If you cannot control the bleeding from a cut or scrape (abrasion), seek medical attention. Any cut that goes beyond the top layer of skin or is deep enough to see into might need stitches (sutures), and should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Generally, the sooner the wound is sutured, the lower the risk of infection. Ideally, wounds should be repaired within six hours of the injury.
People with suppressed immune systems (including people with diabetes, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, people who take steroid medications, such as prednisone, patients on dialysis, or people with HIV) are more likely to develop a wound infection and should be seen by a doctor. People who are on blood thinning medication and cannot control the bleeding should be seen by a doctor immediately.
Any wound that shows signs of infection should be seen by a doctor.
What are the signs and symptoms of a wound infection?
If the wound begins to drain yellow or greenish fluid (pus), or if the skin around the wound becomes red, warm, swollen, or increasingly painful; a wound infection may be present and medical care should be sought. Any red streaking of the skin around the wound may indicate an infection in the system that drains fluid from the tissues, called the lymph system. This infection (lymphangitis) can be serious, especially if it is accompanied by a fever. Prompt medical care should be sought if streaking redness from a wound is noticed.
How are puncture wounds different?
A puncture wound is caused by an object piercing the skin, creating a small hole. Some punctures can be very deep, depending on the source and cause.
Puncture wounds do not usually bleed much, but treatment is necessary to prevent infection. A puncture wound can cause infection because it forces bacteria and debris deep into the tissue, and the wound closes quickly forming an ideal place for bacteria to grow.
For example, if a nail penetrates deep into the foot, it can hit a bone and introduce bacteria into the bone. This risk is especially great if an object has gone through a pair of sneakers or tennis shoes. The foam in sneakers can harbor bacteria that can lead to serious infection in the tissues.
First aid for puncture wounds includes cleaning the area thoroughly with soap and water. These wounds are very difficult to clean out. If the area is swollen, ice can be applied and the area punctured should be elevated. Apply antibiotic ointments (Bacitracin, Polysporin, Neosporin) to prevent infection. Cover the wound with a bandage to keep out harmful bacteria and dirt. Cleanse the puncture wound and change the bandage three times a day, and monitor for signs of infection (the same signs as in the cuts section). Change the bandage any time it becomes wet or dirty.
People with suppressed immune systems or any particularly deep puncture wounds should be seen by a doctor. If it is difficult to remove the puncturing object, it may have penetrated the bone and requires medical care.
Most puncture wounds do not become infected, but if redness, swelling or bleeding persists, see your doctor.
Puncture wounds to the feet are a particular concern. Wear shoes to minimize the risk of a puncture wound from a nail or glass, especially if the affected person has diabetes or loss of sensation in the feet for any reason.
Additional common causes of puncture wounds can include animal or human bites, or splinters from wood or other plant material, which carry a high risk of infection and should be treated by a physician.
Quick GuideCuts and Scrapes: Caring for Wounds in Pictures
Will I need a tetanus shot for a cut, scrape, or puncture wound?
Most people in the United States have been immunized against tetanus (lockjaw). If the affected person has been immunized, a booster shot can be given if they have not had one within 10 years, or if it is a very dirty wound, a booster shot can be given within five years. If affected person has never had a tetanus shot, or if their series is incomplete (fewer than three shots), they might need tetanus immunoglobulin, a medication that can prevent lockjaw.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
University of Maryland Medical Center. Wounds.
Daily Health News
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Skin Care & Conditions Newsletter
University of Maryland Medical Center. Wounds.
Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds - Experience
Please share your experience with cuts, scrapes, or puncture wounds.Post View 6 Comments
Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds - First Aid
What first aid measures did you use for a cut, scrape, or puncture wound?Post
Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds - Medical Care
Please share your experience with seeking medical care for a cut, scrape, or puncture wound.Post View 2 Comments
Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds - Infection
Please share your experience with a cut, scrape, or puncture wound that became infected.Post
Top Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds Related Articles
BoilsA boil is a skin abscess, a collection of pus localized deep in the skin. There are several different types of boils. Among them are the following: furuncle or carbuncle, cystic acne, hidradenitis suppurativa, and pilonidal cyst.
Broken FingerThe hand has several bones to include the wrist, palm, and fingers. Fingers are the most commonly injured part of the hand. The most common causes of broken fingers are a traumatic injury to the finger or fingers such as playing sports, injury in the workplace, falls, and accidents. Treatment for a broken finger may be as simple as buddy taping the broken finger to the adjacent finger, or if the fracture is more serious, surgery.
A broken foot is a common injury. There are 26 bones in the foot, and these bones can be broken (fractured) in a variety of ways. Signs and symptoms of a broken bone in the foot are pain, swelling, redness, bruising, and limping because the person is not able to walk on the affected foot. You can tell if you have a broken foot by medical examination that includes imaging studies. The healing and recovery time for a broken bone in the foot depends upon the type of fracture and the bones broken.
CellulitisCellulitis is an acute spreading bacterial infection below the surface of the skin characterized by redness, warmth, inflammation, and pain. The most common cause of cellulitis is the bacteria staph (Staphylococcus aureus).
Contact with Sea Urchin PictureSea urchins are a gastronomic delight when prepared properly, but a cutaneous torture when stepped on unprepared. See a picture of Contact with Sea Urchin and learn more about the health topic.
Dog Bite TreatmentThere are millions of dogs living in the United States, and thus many cases of dog bites. Annually, hundreds of people seek emergency medical care for dog bites. Treatment for a dog bite depends on how deep the injury is and the amount of tissue damage. Dog bites can be prevented by employing preventative measures.
First Aid Wound CareDo you know what to do with a cut, scrape, burn or wound? These quick home-care first aid tips from our experts will prepare you for various accidents--and let you know when to seek a doctor's help.
First Aid EssentialsAre you always prepared for a first aid crisis? See which basic first aid items to pack to treat minor scrapes, cuts, and stings when you're on the go.
Wound Care True/FalseWhat works for a wound, and what's a myth? Test your first aid knowledge about how to care for scrapes, cuts, and burns and discover the myths about cleaning and covering injuries that may be preventing faster healing.
HPV Infection Human Papillomavirus
HPVs or human papillomaviruses are a group of viral infections of the skin and mucous membranes. Certain high-risk types of HPV infection cause certain cancers (cervical, penile, anal, vaginal, and oral). There are no signs or symptoms of HPV infection.
HPV infection is an extremely common STD, and is highly contagious. A person is at a higher risk of getting HPV infection if they
- have a number of different sex partners;
- have a weakened immune system (for example, HIV/AIDS); or
- has breaks in the skin (cuts or abrasions) that come into contact with an infected person or contaminated surface.
HPV vaccinations are available to prevent HPV infection. Treatment for HPV infection are antiviral medications. There is no cure for HPV infection.
ImpetigoImpetigo is a contagious skin infection caused by staph and strep bacteria. There are two types of impetigo: nonbullous and bullous. Symptoms of nonbullous impetigo include small blisters on the nose, face, arms, or legs and possibly swollen glands. Bullous impetigo signs include blisters in various areas, particularly in the buttocks area. Treatment involves:
- gentle cleansing,
- removing the crusts of popped blisters, and
- the application of prescription-strength mupirocin antibiotic ointment.
KeloidA keloid is a scar that doesn't know when to stop. When the cells keep on reproducing, the result is an overgrown (hypertrophic) scar or a keloid. A keloid looks shiny and is often dome-shaped, ranging in color from slightly pink to red. It feels hard and thick and is always raised above the surrounding skin.
Take the Skin QuizWhat's that all over you? Skin, of course! Test your knowledge of your most amazing organ with the Skin Quiz!
Staph InfectionStaphylococcus or Staph is a group of bacteria that can cause a multitude of diseases. Staph infections can cause illness directly by infection or indirectly by the toxins they produce. Symptoms and signs of a Staph infection include redness, swelling, pain, and drainage of pus. Minor skin infections are treated with an antibiotic ointment, while more serious infections are treated with intravenous antibiotics.
Staph Infection SlideshowDo you know what a staph infection is? Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of staph infections (Staphylococcus aureus), and how this group of bacteria can cause a multitude diseases ranging from mild to potentially fatal.
Swollen Ankles and Swollen Feet
Swollen ankles and swollen feet is a symptom of an underlying disease or condition such as edema, medications, pregnancy, injuries, diseases, infections, lymphedema, or blood clots. Symptoms associated with swelling of the ankles and feet include:
- Skin that is easily indented when pressed down with a finger that slowly returns to its more puffy state when the finger pressure is removed.
- Generalized swelling of the feet or ankles.
- Indentations marks in the skin of the feet or ankles left by socks or shoes
- The skin associated with the swelling is slightly pale, and the indentation marks are slightly darker than the surrounding swollen tissue.
Treatment for swollen ankles or feet depends upon the cause, and soothing symptoms.