Cuts, Scrapes (Abrasions), and Puncture Wounds
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Cuts, scrapes (abrasions), and puncture wounds facts
- Washing a cut or scrape with soap, and water and keeping it clean and dry is all that is required to care for most wounds.
- Cleaning the wound with hydrogen peroxide and iodine is acceptable initially, but can delay healing and should be avoided long-term.
- Apply antibiotic ointment and keep the wound covered.
- Seek medical care within 6 hours if the affected person thinks they might need stitches. Any delay can increase the rate of wound infection.
- Any puncture wound through sneakers has a high risk of infection and should be seen by a health care practitioner.
- Any redness, swelling, increased pain, fever, or pus draining from the wound may indicate an infection that requires medical care.
What is the best way to care for a cut or scrape?
The first step in the care of cuts, scrapes (abrasions) is to stop the bleeding. Most wounds respond to gentle direct pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. Hold the pressure continuously for approximately 10-20 minutes. If this fails to stop the bleeding or if bleeding is rapid, you should seek medical assistance.
Next, thoroughly clean the wound with soap and water. Remove any foreign material in the wound, such as dirt, bits of grass, which may lead to infection. Tweezers can be used (clean them with alcohol first) to remove foreign material from the wound edges, but do not dig into the wound as this may push bacteria deeper into the wound. The wound may also be gently scrubbed with a washcloth to remove dirt and debris. Hydrogen peroxide and povidone-iodine (Betadine) products may be used to clean the wound initially, but may inhibit wound healing if used long-term.
Cover the area with a bandage (such as gauze or a Band-Aid) to help prevent infection and dirt from getting in the wound. A first aid antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin, Neosporin, Polysporin) can be applied to help prevent infection and keep the wound moist.
Learn more about: Bacitracin
Continued care to the wound is also important. Three times a day, wash the area gently with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment and recover with a bandage. Change the bandage immediately if it gets dirty or wet.
Who should seek medical care for a cut?
If you cannot control the bleeding from a cut or scrape (abrasion), seek medical attention. Any cut that goes beyond the top layer of skin or is deep enough to see into might need stitches (sutures), and should be seen by a health care practitioner as soon as possible. Generally, the sooner the wound is sutured, the lower the risk of infection. Ideally, wounds should be repaired within six hours of the injury.
People with suppressed immune systems (including people with diabetes, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, people who take steroid medications, such as prednisone, patients on dialysis, or people with HIV) are more likely to develop a wound infection and should be seen by a healthcare practitioner.
Any wound that shows signs of infection should be seen by a health care practitioner (see "What are the signs of a wound infection?").
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