Cuts: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A cut can happen anywhere on your body.

Stitches, staples, skin adhesives, or pieces of tape called Steri-Strips are sometimes used to keep the edges of a cut together and help it heal. Steri-Strips can be used by themselves or with stitches or staples.

Sometimes cuts are left open.

If the cut went deep and through the skin, the doctor may have closed the cut in two layers. A deeper layer of stitches brings the deep part of the cut together. These stitches will dissolve and don't need to be removed. The upper layer closure, which could be stitches, staples, Steri-Strips, or adhesive, is what you see on the cut.

A cut is often covered by a bandage.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

If a cut is open or closed

  • Prop up the sore area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Keep the cut dry for the first 24 to 48 hours. After this, you can shower if your doctor okays it. Pat the cut dry.
  • Don't soak the cut, such as in a bathtub. Your doctor will tell you when it's safe to get the cut wet.
  • After the first 24 to 48 hours, clean the cut with soap and water 2 times a day unless your doctor gives you different instructions.
    • Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the cut with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as bacitracin, and a non-stick bandage.
    • If the doctor put a bandage over the cut, put on a new bandage after cleaning the cut or if the bandage gets wet or dirty.
  • Avoid any activity that could cause your cut to reopen.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

If the cut is closed with stitches, staples, or Steri-Strips

  • Follow the above instructions for open or closed cuts.
  • Do not remove the stitches or staples on your own. Your doctor will tell you when to come back to have the stitches or staples removed.
  • Leave Steri-Strips on until they fall off.

If the cut is closed with a skin adhesive

  • Follow the above instructions for open or closed cuts.
  • Leave the skin adhesive on your skin until it falls off on its own. This may take 5 to 10 days.
  • Do not scratch, rub, or pick at the adhesive.
  • Do not put the sticky part of a bandage directly on the adhesive.
  • Do not put any kind of ointment, cream, or lotion over the area. This can make the adhesive fall off too soon. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • The skin near the cut is cold or pale or changes colour.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness near the cut.
  • The cut starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • You have trouble moving the area near the cut.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the cut.
    • Red streaks leading from the cut.
    • Pus draining from the cut.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • The cut reopens.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: March 20, 2017