Clean and cover a cut
A thorough but gentle cleaning with soap and water is usually all that's immediately required to treat most minor household wounds. All cuts should be kept clean and dry and should be covered with gauze or an adhesive strip for a few days. Most cuts will heal without incident. Using a first-aid ointment is advised for the first day. Products such as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide can delay healing. Do not squeeze any wound in an attempt to force bleeding — this is not a helpful way to draw out germs.
Cuts that bleed
It can be hard to judge a wound's severity by the amount of bleeding. Even minor cuts to the face and scalp tend to bleed a lot because there is a strong blood supply in that area. Conversely, puncture wounds tend to bleed outwardly very little, but internal bleeding can be severe in such injuries.
If the cut is on an arm or leg, apply direct pressure and try to elevate the injured body part above the level of the heart to slow or stop bleeding.
When to call a doctor
- Concerns about infection. Call your doctor for any cuts that become red, swollen or warm and for cuts that drain pus. If you are diabetic, you need to have any cut that is deep or not starting to heal quickly checked by a doctor. In general, a health professional should see puncture wounds in the foot, as infections are frequent.
- Tetanus risks. If you have a skin injury and have not had a tetanus vaccine in the past ten years, see a doctor today for a booster shot. If you have not completed the introductory tetanus series of three shots (usually given in infancy, but given to adults who were not vaccinated earlier), it is especially important to see a doctor right away. You may need to receive a special shot to fight off the effects of tetanus immediately.
- Deep cuts. Doctors should always treat deep cuts or punctures that extend into layers of fat or muscle, to check for injury to tendons, nerves and blood vessels. These deeper cuts or skin surface cuts that do not keep their edges together may need stitches — seek urgent medical care right away. Stitches should be placed within six hours of an injury. Call 911 if bleeding is heavy or uncontrollable or if you feel faint.