A cut or graze doesn't always mean you need to make a trip to the ER. Many cuts can be dealt with at home, but you need to know some basic first aid before you can practice self-care. Here are some tips for dealing with small cuts at home.
Know how to spot a deep cut
Many people who get a cut will end up seeking medical attention, simply because they aren't sure whether they need stitches. When you get a cut, there are several signs you may need stitches, so look at:
- Cut size if it is longer than half an inch, looks very deep or opens so wide you can't close it, then you'll need medical attention
- Cleanliness if a cut has ragged edges or is full of debris, you may need stitches
- Bleeding if you soak through a bandage, blood spurts from the wound, or you can't stop the bleeding by applying pressure for 10 minutes, seek help
- The cause if it has been caused by a dirty, rusty, or pointed object or a bite from a human or animal, you'll need to see a doctor as you will probably need a tetanus shot
Clean and treat the cut
If you're certain the cut doesn't need medical attention, then you should treat it at home. The first step is to clean the cut. If you're carrying out first aid for someone else, wash your hands first, then use lukewarm water and mild soap to wash their cut.
You should then use gauze or a similar clean fabric to apply pressure, which should stop the bleeding. If the cut is minor, this should only take a couple of minutes. Once the bleeding is stopped, some triple antibiotic ointment can be helpful for minor cuts or grazes, as it keeps the cut clean and prevents infection. Apply a small amount then use a sterile bandage.
A cold compress close to the affected area can help too, especially if there is swelling, and some people use over the counter pain medication if the cut is uncomfortable and annoying.
Look out for the signs of infection
While your cut is healing, you should look out for signs of infection, and seek medical help immediately if you think the cut has become infected. Symptoms can include:
- A fever, above 100.4f in adults, or chills
- Warm or swollen skin
- Pus around the cut
- Red skin or streaks around the cut
- Pain in the affected area
Even a small infection can be deadly, so don't delay in seeking help, even if the original cut was minor. Keep an eye on healing too. Most cuts should heal in around a week, so if it's taking a long time, you may want to see someone about it.
Cuts are a common household injury, and while they can be annoying, they are usually not dangerous. However, you should learn when to seek medical help for a cut, and know the signs of infection, as well as learning how to care for minor cuts and scrapes.