About Cuts And Scrapes: How are cuts treated?

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a cut or open wound is keeping it clean. To prevent infection, anything that touches the scrape or cut should be as clean as possible. This is not always easy because bacteria are on almost everything in our environment. However, most medical supplies are sterilized and free of bacteria that may cause infection.

The first step in treating a cut is to control or stop the bleeding by applying firm and even pressure that is not too hard - you don't want to cut off the circulation. Resist the temptation to keep checking to see if the blood has stopped; you might disturb the healing process. Wait a few minutes before looking. If there's a lot of blood and it's coming through the padding you're using, don't remove the padding; cover it with another cloth or pad and continue to apply pressure. This allows clotting to continue undisturbed. If the bleeding doesn't stop, keep applying pressure and get the cut checked by a doctor.

Many people, especially children, are distressed at the sight of blood and may feel queasy and lightheaded. However, the sooner you can cover the wound and slow down the blood flow, the easier the injury will be to deal with. Remember, many minor cuts - especially to the head and face - bleed a lot more than you might expect, since the blood vessels are very dense in these areas of the body compared to others. If you've been able to control the blood flow, check the cut to see if it needs medical attention. Cuts that require medical attention include ones that

  • are deep - doctors usually are more concerned with how deep a cut is rather than how long it is
  • expose any muscle tissue (red) or fat tissue (yellowish)
  • stay open if you let go of the sides of the cut
  • are on a joint or in an area where healing might be difficult - stitching might be needed to keep it closed

If no medical attention is needed, treat the cut in the following way:

  • Cleanse the cut with sodium chloride (salt) 0.9% and sterile water. If this is not available, use a mild soap and water to cleanse. Cleansing will help to remove any debris and bacteria from the cut. Avoid cleansing the wound with cotton wool, as fibres may get into the wound and cause infection.
  • Cover the wound with a moist dressing (cloth bandage). If you are not sure what type of dressing to use, ask your pharmacist for a recommendation.

You can use astringents and antiseptics on the area surrounding the cut, but it is best to avoid using them directly on or in the cut as they can disrupt the natural healing process.

Learn more about First Aid