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Cuts and Scrapes

Minor cuts and scrapes without severe bleeding and that do not involve tissues deeper than the skin should be cleansed thoroughly and cared for properly to avoid infection or other complications. There will be some contamination and it should be removed before the injury is dressed & bandaged, especially if medical attention is delayed. Removal of foreign materials in muscle or deep tissue should always be carried out by a physician.

Stop the bleeding. Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own. If they don’t, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. Hold the pressure continuously for 20 to 30 minutes and if possible elevate the wound. Don’t keep checking to see if the bleeding has stopped because this may damage or dislodge the clot that’s forming and cause bleeding to resume. If blood spurts or continues flowing after continuous pressure, seek medical assistance.

Clean the wound:

  1. To cleanse a wound, wash your hands thoroughly with soap & water. Use ordinary hand soap or mild detergent.
  2. Wash in and around the victim’s wound to remove bacteria and other foreign matter. Soap can irritate the wound, so try to keep it out of the actual wound. If dirt or debris remains in the wound after washing, use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove the particles. If debris still remains, see your doctor. Thorough cleaning reduces the risk of infection and tetanus. To clean the area around the wound, use soap and a washcloth. There’s no need to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine or an iodine-containing cleanser.
  3. Rinse the wound thoroughly by flushing with clean water, preferably running tap water.
  4. Blot the wound dry with a sterile gauze pad or a clean cloth.
  5. After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment such as Neosporin or Polysporin to help keep the surface moist. Antibiotic ointments discourage infection and help your body’s natural healing process. Certain ingredients in some ointments can cause a mild rash in some people. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment.
  6. Apply a dry sterile bandage or clean dressing and secure it firmly in place. Bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out. After the wound has healed enough to make infection unlikely, exposure to the air may speed wound healing.

Change the dressing. Change the dressing at least daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty. If you’re allergic to the adhesive used in most bandages, switch to adhesive-free dressings or sterile gauze held in place with paper tape, gauze roll or a loosely applied elastic bandage. These supplies generally are available at pharmacies.

Get stitches for deep wounds. A wound that is more than 1/4-inch (6 millimeters) deep or is gaping or jagged edged and has fat or muscle protruding usually requires stitches. Adhesive strips or butterfly tape may hold a minor cut together, but if you can’t easily close the wound, see your doctor as soon as possible. Proper closure within a few hours reduces the risk of infection.

Watch for signs of infection. See your doctor if the wound isn’t healing or you notice any redness, increasing pain, drainage, warmth or swelling.

Get a tetanus shot. Doctors recommend you get a tetanus shot every 10 years. If your wound is deep or dirty and your last shot was more than five years ago, your doctor may recommend a tetanus shot booster. Get the booster as soon as possible after the injury.

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