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First Aid and Emergencies

Cuts

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

When you see a cut (laceration), the first steps are to stop the bleeding and determine whether stitches are needed.

Stopping Severe Bleeding

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water. Put on medical gloves or place several layers of fabric or plastic bags between your hands and the wound.

  • Elevate the site that is bleeding.

  • Remove any visible objects from the surface of the wound. Do not attempt to clean out the wound.

  • Press firmly on the wound with a clean cloth or the cleanest material available. If there is an object deep in the wound, apply pressure around the object, not directly over it.

  • Apply steady pressure for a full 15 minutes. Don't peek after a few minutes to see if bleeding has stopped. If the bleeding does not seem to be slowing down during this time, call 911 or emergency services. Continue to apply pressure to the wound. If blood soaks through the cloth, apply another cloth without lifting the first one.

  • If severe bleeding decreases after you apply pressure for 15 minutes, but minimal bleeding starts again once you release the pressure, apply direct pressure to the wound for another 15 minutes. Direct pressure may be applied up to 3 times (total of 45 minutes) for minimal bleeding. If bleeding (more than just oozing small amounts of blood) continues after 45 minutes of direct pressure, call a health professional.

  • Watch for signs of shock. See Shock.

If the cut is bleeding heavily or spurting blood, see "Stopping Severe Bleeding" on See Stopping Severe Bleeding.

Bleeding from minor cuts will usually stop on its own or after you apply a little direct pressure.

To decide whether stitches are needed, See Are Sutures Necessary?.

If stitches are needed, apply Home Treatment and seek medical care as soon as possible, certainly within 8 hours. If stitches are not needed, you can clean and bandage the cut at home.

Home Treatment

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  • Wash the cut well with soap and water. Treat an animal bite like a puncture wound. See Puncture Wounds.

  • Stop any bleeding by applying direct, continuous pressure over the wound for 15 minutes.

  • Leave small cuts unbandaged, unless they will become irritated. Cuts heal best when exposed to the air.

  • If a cut needs bandaging, but not stitches, apply antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin or Bacitracin). The ointment will keep the cut from sticking to the bandage. Do not use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or mercurochrome, which can harm tissue and slow healing.

  • Use an adhesive strip (such as Band-Aid) to provide continuous pressure. Always put an adhesive strip across a cut rather than

    lengthwise. A butterfly bandage (made at home or purchased) can help hold cut skin edges together:

    • Using a clean scissors, cut a strip from a roll of 2.5-cm (1-inch) adhesive tape and fold it sticky side out. Cut notches into the tape as shown in illustration A.

    • Unfold the tape; then fold the notched pieces together, sticky side in as in illustration B. The centre of the tape will not be sticky. Keep the part that will be over the cut clean.

    • Place one end of the tape on the skin. Then pull the other end to close the wound tightly as in illustration C.

    • If the cut is long, use more than one bandage.

  • Apply a clean bandage at least once a day, or when the old bandage gets wet. Leave the bandage off whenever possible.

    Butterfly bandages are best for closing a long cut.

When to Call a Health Professional

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