Emergency Care For You

Cuts and Abrasions

Most cuts are minor, but it's still important to care for them. Most can be treated by cleaning with soap and water and applying a clean bandage. You also may want to treat the cut with an antibiotic ointment. If you delay care for only a few hours, even a minor wound can build enough bacteria to cause a serious infection and increase your risk of a noticeable scar.

Puncture wounds may not seem very serious, but because germs and debris are carried deep into the tissues, a physician evaluation may be needed. In addition, antibiotics or a tetanus shot may be required.

Seek medical attention for a cut or a wound that shows any of the following signs:

  • Long or deep cuts that need stitches
  • Cuts over a joint
  • Cuts from an animal or human bite
  • Cuts that may impair function of a body area, such as an eyelid or lip
  • Cuts that remove all the layers of the skin, like slicing off the tip of a finger
  • Cuts caused by metal objects or puncture wound
  • Cuts over a possible broken bone
  • Cuts that are deep, jagged or "gaping" open
  • Cuts that have damaged underling nerves, tendons or joints
  • Cuts that have foreign materials, such as dirt, glass, metal or chemicals embedded in them
  • Cuts that show signs of infection, such as fever, swelling, redness, a pungent smell, pus or fluid draining from the area
  • Cuts that include problems with movement or sensation, or increased pain 

Seek emergency care if:

  • The wound is still bleeding after a few minutes of steady, firm pressure with a cloth or bandage
  • Signs of shock occur
  • Breathing is difficult because of a cut to the neck or chest
  • There is a cut to the eyeball
  • There is a cut that amputates or partially amputates an extremity
  • There is a deep cut to the abdomen that causes moderate to severe pain

A tetanus shot may be required if you have not had one within 10 years or if you are unsure of when you last had one. Tetanus is a bacterial infection that affects the nervous system and is often fatal. Although most people are aware that stepping on a rusty nail or a puncture wound can cause a tetanus infection, most people do not know that tetanus bacteria can also enter the body even through a tiny pinprick, a scratch from an animal, splinters, bug bites and even burns that break the skin.