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.