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Treating Cuts and Wounds (First Aid)
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Treating Cuts and Wounds

Richard Thomas, MD, FRCPC

Cuts and scrapes are the most common of injuries, and as careful as we can be, they will happen from time to time. Read the following steps to ensure that these wounds are properly cared for. With proper care, you can greatly reduce the chance of infection and scarring.

Stop the bleeding:

The first step after a cut is to stop the bleeding. Apply pressure to the bleeding wound using a cloth or towel. Most cuts should stop bleeding shortly with pressure and a little time. Elevating the wound also helps to stop the bleeding.

Clean the wound:

Cleaning the wound properly is possibly the most important aspect of proper wound care. It will minimize the risk of infection and long term scarring. The wound should be rinsed thoroughly with clean water, removing dirt, gravel, or other invading objects such as glass. Following the rinse, the wound should be cleaned carefully using sterile gauzes.

Prevent Infection:

Topical antibiotics help prevent infections, but also promote healing. Studies have shown that wounds which were treated with topical antibiotics were healing within 8 days, while similar wound which were left untreated took 13 days to heal. After the topical antibiotic is applied, cover the area with a dressing.

Closing the wound:

Promote healing and minimize scarring by covering the wound. Keeping the area covered limits its exposure to potential infection. This also has the effect of keeping the injured area moist. This encourages new tissue to grow, reduces scarring, reduces the chances of infection, as well as minimizing the chance of reinjuring the same area with a cut or a scrape. Here are some available options:

Simple bandages should suffice for covering most small wounds. Stitches and sutures are used to close deeper cuts in the skin. The edges of the skin are sewn together to stop bleeding. This is effective but may later cause scarring.

Steri-strips can be used to close wounds on the face. They are thin and sticky, and generally fall off after several days. 

Skin glue is another alternative. It is an adhesive that sticks the edges of the wounds together, providing protection. However, its effectiveness is reduced in areas where the skin stretches significantly, such as the folds.

Liquid bandages can be used to close wounds where regular bandages can be difficult to apply.

Seek medical help:

Call your doctor if any of these conditions apply:

  • Bleeding does not stop
  • Dirt or debris cannot be removed
  • The wound is deep, the edges are torn apart, or if fat tissue is protruding from the wound. You may require stitches if the wound is gaping, or punctured, or over half an inch long
  • If a tetanus shot is required

Related:

bleeding,   cuts,   first aid,