Your child falls off of their new scooter. That knife you’re using slices your finger instead of the carrot. Your new puppy doesn’t know how sharp his baby teeth are. You might think a cut or scrape is no big deal, but any time the skin gets broken, there’s a risk of infection. Everyone should understand how to care for cuts and scrapes at home – and know when you need to see a doctor.
What to Do
A small cut or scrape will usually heal well without medical care. Here’s what to do if the injury isn’t serious:
- Wash your hands to help avoid infection.
- Stop the bleeding. Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own. If needed, apply gentle pressure with a clean bandage or cloth and elevate the wound until the bleeding stops.
- Clean the wound. Rinse the wound with water. Keeping the wound under running tap water will reduce the risk of infection. Wash around the wound with soap being careful not to get soap into the wound itself. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or iodine, which can be irritating. Remove any dirt or debris with tweezers cleaned with alcohol. See a doctor if you can’t remove all debris.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment. Apply a thin layer of an antibiotic ointment to keep the surface moist and help prevent scarring.
- Cover the wound. Apply a clean bandage, rolled gauze or gauze held in place with paper tape. Covering the wound helps to keep it clean. If the injury is just a minor scrape or scratch, leave it uncovered.
- Change the dressing. Change the dressing at least once a day or whenever the bandage becomes wet or dirty.
- Watch for signs of infection. See a doctor if you see any signs of infection on the skin or near the wound, such as redness, increasing pain, drainage, warmth, or swelling.
Do you need a tetanus shot? Get a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in the past five years, and the wound is deep or dirty, especially if your skin was pierced by an old nail, knife, fishhook, etc. Bites that break the skin need medical care. Did you know that dogs have over 600 different types of bacteria in their mouths? Germs from animal or human saliva can get into the wound, and you will usually need antibiotics to prevent infection. Your doctor or nurse will also want to make sure the animal didn’t have rabies.
Signs of Infection
Sometimes, a cut, scratch, or scrape starts as no big deal but then gets infected. A skin infection happens when there are too many germs for your body’s white blood cells to handle.
If you notice any of these signs of infection, call your doctor right away:
- expanding redness around the wound
- yellow or greenish-colored pus or cloudy wound drainage
- red streaking spreading from the wound
- increased swelling, tenderness, or pain around the wound
A doctor will prescribe antibiotics to help your body fight off the infection.
Luckily, most small cuts, scratches, and abrasions will go away on their own, thanks to your body’s amazing ability to heal itself. If a cut looks serious or infected, though, see a doctor.
Your friends at Southern Immediate Care are here to help ensure that your wound doesn’t get infected. Give us a call today!