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Cuts are open wounds through the skin. Normally the skin is under slight, constant tension as it covers the body. A cut is a forceful injury to the skin. Many people cut themselves by accident with household items, work items, or yard tools or when operating machinery. Children often are cut during play and sports activities or from falls while riding wheeled toys, such as bikes, scooters, or skateboards. Most cuts are minor, and home treatment is usually all that is needed.
Some types of cuts are more serious and need to be checked and treated by a doctor. These more serious cuts include:
Injury to the skin may also break small blood vessels under the skin. This can cause more swelling and bruising than you would expect.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
To clean a wound well:
If a chemical has caused a wound or burn, follow the instructions on the chemical's container or call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) to find out what to do. Most chemicals should be rinsed off with lots of water, but with some chemicals, water may make the burn worse.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Usually found in dirt and soil, tetanus bacteria typically enter the body through a wound. Wounds may include a bite, a cut, a puncture, a burn, a scrape, insect bites, or any injury that may cause broken skin.
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Some types of facial wounds are more likely to leave a scar than others. These include:
Stitches or other treatment may help prevent scarring. It's best to get treated within 8 hours of the injury.
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Minor cuts usually can be treated at home. Home treatment can help prevent infection and promote healing.
Try these tips for treating a cut.
Apply direct pressure to the wound.
Nonprescription products can be applied to the skin to help stop mild bleeding of minor cuts, lacerations, or scrapes. Before you buy or use these products, be sure to read the label carefully. Follow the label's instructions when you apply the product.
Cuts to the head or face may look worse than they are and may bleed a lot because of the good blood supply to these areas. Controlling the bleeding will help you see how serious the injury is.
This lowers the chance of infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from dirt left in the wound. (If dirt or other debris is not removed from a cut, the new skin will heal over it. The dirt can then be seen through the skin and may look like a tattoo.)
These tissues include blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and internal organs.
Most cuts heal well and may not need a bandage. You may need to protect the cut from dirt or irritation. Be sure to clean the cut thoroughly before bandaging it. Cleaning reduces the chance that you'll get an infection under the bandage.
If you use a bandage:
Prop up the injured area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
If you are concerned that the injury is more serious, you may need to be checked by a doctor to see if you need stitches or a tetanus shot.
To determine whether you need stitches, stop the bleeding and wash the wound well. Then pinch the sides of the wound together. If the wound's edges come together and it looks better, you may need stitches. If stitches may be needed, avoid using antiseptic until after a doctor checks the wound.
To decide if you need a tetanus shot after a wound, first decide if the object that caused the wound was dirty or clean. An object is dirty if it has dirt, soil, spit, or feces on it. A clean object does not have dirt, soil, spit, or feces on it.
You will need a tetanus shot if:
If you need a tetanus shot, call your doctor to arrange for a shot.
Some people may need tetanus immunoglobulin (IG) for a wound that is at high risk for developing tetanus. The immunoglobulin is usually only needed if you have not (or do not know if you have) completed the tetanus primary vaccination series.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
July 11, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: July 11, 2023
Clinical Review Board:
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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