After cleaning a wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment to help keep the surface moist, then cover the area with a suitable dressing to help prevent infection and dirt from getting in the wound.

Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own.

  • Most other wounds respond to gentle direct pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. Apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. Hold the pressure continuously for 10-20 minutes and if possible elevate the wound.
  • Do not keep checking to see if the bleeding has stopped because this may damage or dislodge the clot that has formed and cause bleeding to resume. If the cloth gets soaked with blood, just add another on top.
  • If the continued pressure fails to stop the bleeding or if bleeding is rapid, seek medical assistance.

CLEAN THE WOUND

  • Rinse out the wound with clear water. Soap can irritate the wound, so try to keep it out of the actual wound. Do not scrub the wound.
  • Remove any dirt particles from the area and let the water from the faucet run over it for several minutes. A dirty cut or scrape that is not thoroughly cleaned can cause infection and scarring.
  • If dirt or debris remains in the wound after washing, use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove the particles.
  • Do not dig into the wound as this may push bacteria deeper into the wound. If debris remains, see the doctor.

APPLY AN ANTISEPTIC LOTION OR CREAM

After cleaning the wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment to help keep the surface moist. The products do not make the wound heal faster, but they can discourage infection and help the body’s natural healing process.

COVER THE WOUND

  • Bandages/plasters can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out.
  • Cover the area with a suitable dressing to help prevent infection and dirt from getting in the wound.
  • Change the dressing
    • Check the area each day and keep it clean and dry.
    • Change the dressing at least daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty. After the wound has healed enough to make infection unlikely, exposure to the air will speed wound healing.

GET STITCHES FOR DEEP WOUNDS

  • A wound that is more than 6mm 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 the wound cannot easily be held together, see the doctor as soon as possible. Proper closure within a few hours reduces the risk of infection.

WATCH FOR SIGNS OF INFECTION

See the doctor if the wound is not healing or if any redness, increasing pain, drainage, warmth or swelling occurs.

GET A TETANUS SHOT

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

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

  • Heavy bleeding heavily that does not stop after 5-10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Wounds deeper or longer than 5-6mm
  • Located close to the eye
  • Gaping or ragged, separated wound margins
  • Large cuts on the face
  • A puncture wound
  • Some punctures can be very deep and do not usually bleed much, however treatment is necessary to prevent infection. Bacteria and debris are forced deep into the tissue and the wound closes quickly forming an ideal place for bacteria to grow.
  • Caused by a dirty or rusty object
  • Embedded with debris such as dirt, stones, or gravel
  • Caused by an animal or human bite
  • Excessively painful
  • Showing signs of infection such as increased warmth, redness, swelling, or drainage

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS 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.

AT A GLANCE

  • 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.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment and keep the wound covered.
  • Seek medical care within six hours if stitches are required. Any delay can increase the rate of wound infection.
  • Any puncture wound has a high risk of infection and should be seen by the healthcare professional.
  • Any redness, swelling, increased pain, fever or pus draining from the wound may indicate an infection that requires professional care.