What Does a Scratch Mean?

Reviewed on 11/25/2020
Scratches are superficial wounds that do not penetrate the deeper layers of the skin.
Scratches are superficial wounds that do not penetrate the deeper layers of the skin.

Scratches are superficial wounds that do not penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. They are one of the commonest types of injuries. We all get scratches often such as scratches due to sharp edges of objects, animal scratches, and scratches in response to itching. Scratches may also occur due to an injury with abrasive surfaces such as sandpaper, concrete, and unpolished or unfinished wooden objects. Most of the scratches are often minor injuries that heal without causing any scarring. Many times, a minor scratch may get unnoticed. The symptoms of a scratch can include:

Who is at a risk of scratches?

Scratches can affect anyone. They are one of the commonest types of superficial injuries. Some people, however, may be at a higher risk of scratches. They include:

  • People with occupations involving working with rough surfaces such as concrete, unfinished wood, thorny plants, and sandpaper
  • Children
  • People involved in playing sports such as basketball, volleyball, and soccer
  • People with medical conditions that affect skin sensations such as advanced diabetes and leprosy
  • People with pets

How to take care of a scratch wound?

Scratch wounds often resolve on their own. If you get a scratch wound, you should

  • Wash the scratch wound thoroughly with soap and water. You may keep the wound under running water for several minutes.
  • Pat dry the wound with a clean towel; do not rub.
  • Apply pressure if you need to stop bleeding from the wound. Most scratch wounds do not cause any serious bleeding.
  • Apply antimicrobial cream or ointment such as povidone-iodine.
  • Cover the wound with a sterile bandage or clean cloth.
  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers in case of painful or large scratches.
  • Contact your doctor to know whether you need a tetanus booster shot. Seek medical care if
    • There is severe pain.
    • The bleeding does not stop.
    • The scratch was caused by an animal (may need anti-rabies shots). An animal bite or a scratch on the face, hand, foot, or near a joint is particularly risky and needs medical attention.
    • There is pus coming from the wound.
    • The wound is excessively swollen.
    • You develop a fever.
    • You have diseases that may lower your immunity such as diabetes or human immunodeficiency (HIV).
  • Change the bandage every day and look for any signs of infection such as pus coming from the wound.
  • Not scratch or pick on the wound.

Are scratches serious injuries?

Most scratches are minor injuries that heal without any serious consequences. Complications often depend upon what caused the scratch. Scratches caused by animals, especially wild animals, may cause serious complications such as rabies. Such scratches are even more dangerous when caused on the face, hands, feet, or near a joint. Sometimes, a scratch can get infected and may lead to a generalized infection in the body.

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References
https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/cuts.html

https://www.rchsd.org/health-articles/checking-out-cuts-scratches-and-abrasions/

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/bites.html

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