Cuts and Scrapes


What is a cut?

A cut, or laceration, occurs when the skin is sliced open.


How can I treat a cut at home?

To treat a cut at home you need to first assess the degree of bleeding. Next you should attempt to stop the bleeding. To stop minor bleeding you need to apply direct pressure over the wound for 10-15 minutes, and wash the cut well with soap and water once the bleeding stops. To stop severe bleeding you need to first call 911. Next you should have the victim lie down and elevate the site that is bleeding. You should not attempt to clean the wound. Now you should press firmly on the wound with a clean cloth. If blood soaks through, apply a second cloth on top of the first, while maintaining pressure. If the bleeding has not stopped, you should press firmly on the pressure points (in the arm under the biceps muscle, in the leg in the groin area). Once you have the bleeding under control you need to determine whether the cut requires stitches. Stitches are likely needed for cuts that are a quarter of an inch (0.6 cm) deep or gaping; cuts over a joint; cuts on the hand, face, eyelid, or lips; and cuts where bleeding is not easily controlled.


When should I seek emergency treatment for a cut?

You should seek emergency care if you are unable to control the bleeding. If you think a cut may require stitches or if you are uncertain if stitches are required, you should seek emergency care. Most lacerations should be stitched within six hours of the injury to prevent infection. Emergency care should also be sought for if you are uncertain of your tetanus vaccination status, have any signs of infection (redness, pus, swelling, severe pain, or fever), or if the initial cut appears dirty or contains foreign materials such as wood or gravel.


What is a scrape?

A scrape, or abrasion, occurs when the top part of the skin is injured, such as in a scraped knee. Scrapes are usually quite dirty.


How can I treat a scrape at home?

You should first attempt to remove large pieces of debris with tweezers and then clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Next you should apply steady pressure with a bandage or cloth to stop bleeding.  Finally, you should use an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment, such as Polysporin®, and a non-stick bandage.


When should I seek professional care for a scrape?

You should seek medical attention if you have any signs of infection (redness, pus, swelling, severe pain, or fever) or heavy bleeding. You should also seek medical attention if you are uncertain about your tetanus vaccination status.