Cuts are open wounds through the skin. Normally the skin is under slight, constant tension as it covers the body. A cut is a forceful injury to the skin. Many people accidentally cut themselves with household or work items, yard tools, or when operating machinery. Children often are cut during play and sports activities, or from falls while riding wheeled toys, such as bikes, scooters, or skateboards. Most cuts are minor and home treatment is usually all that is needed.
Cuts can be caused by:
Some types of cuts are more serious and need medical evaluation and treatment. These more serious cuts include:
Injury to the skin may also break small blood vessels under the skin and cause more swelling and bruising than you would expect.
When you have a cut:
Cuts to the head or face may appear worse than they are and bleed a lot because of the good blood supply to this area. Controlling the bleeding will allow you to determine the seriousness of the injury.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Minor cuts usually can be treated at home. If you do not have an increased chance of getting an infection, do not have other injuries, and do not need treatment by a doctor or a tetanus shot, you can clean and bandage a cut at home. Home treatment can help prevent infection and promote healing.
The American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions with first aid treatment.
Stop the bleeding with direct pressure to the wound.
Non-prescription products are available to be applied to the skin to help stop mild bleeding of minor cuts, lacerations, or abrasions. Before you buy or use one, be sure to read the label carefully and follow the label's instructions when you apply the product.
After you have stopped the bleeding, check your symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your doctor.
Clean the wound as soon as possible to reduce the chance of infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from dirt left in the wound.
Determine if your wound needs to be closed by a doctor with stitches, staples, or skin adhesives.
Your doctor will tell you how to take care of your stitches or staples and when to return to have them removed. Skin adhesives usually do not need to be removed, but your doctor may wish to see you to check on the wound. Be sure to carefully follow your doctor's instructions. If you are unsure of how to care for your wound or have questions, call your doctor for instructions.
Most cuts heal well and may not need a bandage. You may need to protect the cut from dirt and irritation. Be sure to clean the cut thoroughly before bandaging it to reduce the risk of infection occurring under the bandage.
An ice or cold pack may help reduce swelling and bruising. Never apply ice directly to a wound or the skin. This could cause tissue damage.
Elevate the injured area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
|Try a non-prescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
|Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a non-prescription medicine:|
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
To prevent cuts, it is important to practice safety when using blunt or sharp objects:
Be sure to have a tetanus shot every 10 years.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||August 2, 2012|
Last Revised: August 2, 2012
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