Top of the page
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.
Before you clean the wound, try to stop the bleeding.
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 his or her own wound, if possible.
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 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.
A quick test to determine whether you need stitches is to stop the bleeding, wash the wound well, and then pinch the sides of the wound together. If the edges of the wound come together and it looks better, you may want to consider getting stitches. If stitches may be needed, avoid using an antiseptic until after a doctor has examined 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 and then gently roll the dressing off the skin.
Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.