Slight Bleeding Is Helpful
The first step in wound care is to clean the wound. Small cuts and scrapes should bleed a little to help clean out the wound. Apply pressure using a clean tissue or sterile piece of gauze. If blood soaks through, put an additional tissue or gauze over the existing one. Keep applying pressure until the bleeding stops. If you remove the material too soon, the wound may start to bleed again.
Cleaning Cuts and Scrapes
Care for cuts and scrapes by running the area under cool water to reduce pain and clean the wound. Remove any visible dirt, splinters, pebbles, or debris. You may need tweezers to help. Wash the area surrounding the wound wish soap and a soft washcloth. Some people think you need to apply iodine for cuts and scrapes or alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. That is not true as these may sting and irritate the wound. Gentle, non-irritating soap and water should work fine.
Are Antibiotic Ointment and Creams Needed?
Some people like to use antibiotic cream or ointment to cover cuts and scrapes on the skin. The product serves two purposes. It helps keep wounds moist, which aids healing, and it also helps reduce the risk of infection. Ingredients in these creams and ointments may trigger rashes in some people so be mindful and stop using them if you experience a skin reaction.
Bandage or No Bandage?
Many people wonder what to put on cuts and scrapes. Should you put a bandage on a wound or not? Normally you should, especially if the wound is in an area where it can be rubbed with clothes. Cuts and scrape that are not covered may open back up or become infected. Adhesive bandages are a good choice because they help keep bacteria out. Change bandages daily to keep the wound clean.
Latex or Adhesive Allergies
Do you have itching, blisters, redness, or a burning feeling under or around a bandage? If so, you may be allergic to latex or adhesives on the bandage. Opt for hypoallergenic bandages formulated for those who have sensitive skin. You can also use sterile gauze and paper tape to cover a wound.
How Wounds Heal
After figuring out how to treat cuts and scrapes, your body does the rest. Healing begins soon after injury. White blood cells rush to the area to attack any bacteria that may have entered the body. Substances in the blood including fibrin, platelets, and red blood cells form a clot over the wound that turns into a scab. The protective scab may itch, but resist the urge to scratch. The scab protects the tissue that is healing underneath. You don't want to displace the scab that protects it.
Wound Care for Minor Burns
The most important thing to do when you get a minor burn is to cool the area. Do this by applying a cool cloth or running the affected area under cool running water. This soothes the burn. Then gently wash the wound with soap and water and apply a light dressing. If the skin blisters, let it. Blisters help protect the area as skin heals.
Surgical Wound Care
If you have surgery, your doctor will send you home with instructions about how to take care of the incision site. This may include dressing the wound for a few days and changing the dressing daily. If you have staples or stitches, follow your doctor's wound care instructions for addressing these. Keep the post-surgical site clean and dry and notify your doctor right away if you develop complications or signs of infection, including redness, discharge, bleeding, or odor.
Watch for Infection Signs
If you have a cut, scrape, or post-surgical wound, it is important to monitor it for signs of infection. This includes redness, swelling, yellowish or greenish discharge, and pain and a feeling of warmth in the area. Additional signs include fever, chills, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes in the groin, neck, or armpit. See your doctor or call the office right away if you notice signs of potential infection.
When to See a Doctor
It's fine to treat minor cuts and scrapes at home, but you should seek medical attention for injuries that are more severe. This includes wounds that
- are very deep or very long (a half-inch or greater)
- have lots of dirt and debris stuck in them
- are very painful
- are near the eye
- do not stop bleeding despite applying pressure for at least 5 to 10 minutes
- are caused by a bite from an animal or a human
- was due to a dirty or rusty object
- looks ragged or gaping
- displays signs of infection including redness, warmth, yellowish or greenish discharge, or odor
- concerns about scar formation (for example, facial scarring)
Consult with your doctor to make sure you are up to date on tetanus vaccination.
First Aid: Wound Care for Cuts and Scrapes
This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information:
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