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Skin wounds, including animal or human bites, need thorough cleaning to reduce the risk of infection and scarring and to promote healing. You may be able to do this yourself for minor wounds. You'll have to stop any bleeding, clean the wound, and perhaps bandage the wound.
If gloves aren't available, put something else between your hands and the wound. You can use many layers of clean cloth, plastic bags, or the cleanest material available. Use your bare hands to apply direct pressure only as a last resort.
Remove any jewelry from the general area of the wound so if the area swells, the jewelry will not affect blood flow.
Mild bleeding usually stops on its own or slows to an ooze or trickle after 15 minutes of pressure. It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes.
Follow these steps to clean a minor skin wound.
If you are not going to see your doctor immediately, rinse the wound for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Let the injured person clean their own wound, if possible.
Do not push the tweezers deeply into the wound.
Consider bandaging the wound if you need to protect it from getting dirty or irritated. Choose the bandage carefully. There are many products available. Before you buy or use one, be sure to read the label carefully and follow the label's instructions when you apply the bandage.
You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage.
You can make one at home or buy them already made. Always put the butterfly bandage across a cut, not lengthwise, to hold the edges together.
Watch for signs of infection. If an infection develops under a bandage, you may need to see your doctor.
Take the bandage off and leave it off whenever you are sure the wound will not become irritated or dirty.
You may need to see a doctor for a large, deep, or very dirty wound. You may also need to see a doctor if the wound is too painful to clean or you cannot remove dirt, debris, or a foreign object. The doctor will also know if you need antibiotics or stitches.
Most wounds that need stitches should be treated within 6 to 8 hours after the injury to reduce the risk of infection. Very dirty wounds may not be stitched to avoid the risk of infection.
If you are going to see a doctor immediately, the wound can be cleaned and treated at the medical facility.
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.
Removing tape or a bandage may damage healing skin or cause thin skin to tear. Unless the bandage is soiled, avoid changing it too often.
To remove, hold the skin with one hand, and gently pull the tape or bandage toward the wound. If the tape holding the bandage is stuck to the skin or hair on the skin, use bandage adhesive remover before trying to take the tape off. You can buy adhesive remover at the store where you get bandages. Read and follow the instructions on the label.
If the bandage is stuck to the wound, wet the bandage with saline solution until it loosens. Then gently roll the dressing off the skin.
Current as of:
March 21, 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: March 21, 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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