Cuts and abrasions of all kinds can happen every day, from scraped knees on a patio to deep cuts on fingers and hands in the kitchen and workshop. Cuts are skin wounds that involve separation of the skin and are usually caused by a sharp object like a knife or a piece of glass.
Wash cuts under running water
Take the following steps to care for simple cuts and abrasions:
Wash your hands with soap and water and then wash the wound under running water. For wounds that are bleeding, apply direct pressure with a sterile cloth or bandage and elevate the wound.
Apply antibiotic cream, but avoid using iodine or hydrogen-peroxide solutions, as they can cause further damage to injured tissues and may cause allergic reactions in people reactive to iodine and shellfish.
Dress the wound with a sterile gauze, preferably nonstick, bandage to protect the wound from infection and water loss until a scab forms.
Keep the area around the wound clean and change any dirty dressings promptly.
Change most dressings daily and replace dressings when any fluids soak through, to decrease any chance that the wound will dry and stick to the dressing. Cleaning open wounds can sometimes cause bleeding, which can be easily stopped with direct pressure using a sterile gauze pad.
Never dress a wound with obvious contamination. If you aren't able to get it clean, then cover it lightly with a sterile bandage and seek medical attention.
First Aid for Deeper Cuts
In the case of lacerations that are deep enough to see fatty tissue:
Pull the edges of the wound together and use butterfly closures to secure them.
Apply antiseptic or antibiotic ointment over butterfly closures, cover with a bandage, and seek medical attention.
Never wash deep cuts, because it may increase the rate of bleeding. Don't remove blood-stained dressings from deep cuts, as this may restart bleeding. Instead, reinforce the old dressings by putting additional dressings on top until the bleeding stops.
See a doctor:
For cuts that don't stop bleeding after ten minutes or applying pressure
If there is a chance that nerves or tendons have been affected
If there is something embedded in the cut
If the cut is caused by an animal or human bite or was punctured by anything dirty that may cause infection
If the cut is on the mouth, face, hand, or genitals
If stitches are needed, keep the wound closed with butterfly closures until you can get professional care. If the wound is very dirty or is likely to be so, such as with human or animal bites, you only have about six hours before the wound is too contaminated to stitch. Other wounds may go as long as eight hours after the injury before being stitched, but the longer you wait, the less likely that stitches will be possible and any scarring can be minimized. For any signs of complications such as numbness or decreased movement; tenderness, inflammation, swelling, or red streaks around the wound; or fever seek immediate medical attention.
Call your medical-care provider immediately for wounds longer than one-half inch that are gaping open and have edges that don't stay together because as a rule these wounds need stitches.
Control the Bleeding
When a wound starts to bleed at any time, apply pressure to control the bleeding. If the cut is deep and bleeding is profuse, treat it as an emergency. Control the bleeding by placing a sterile gauze or pad over the cut and applying steady direct pressure. Lay the person down with feet elevated to help prevent shock. Never apply direct pressure to a wound with a protruding object or bone; instead, apply pressure to either side of the wound. If possible, elevate the cut above the level of the person's heart, and if bleeding is profuse and continuous, refer to Chapter 2, Managing Shock, and call 911 immediately.
First Aid for Abrasions
When treating abrasions, follow these steps:
Remove any debris such as dirt, fiber, and rocks from an abrasion before cleaning it.
Use tweezers to remove small objects, and a nonalcoholic wipe to gently clean off the wound, wiping in one direction.
Wash the wound with soap and water, apply an antibiotic cream, and cover with a clean dressing.