Cuts are open wounds through the skin. Normally the skin is under slight, constant tension as it covers the body. A cut is a forceful injury to the skin. Many people accidentally cut themselves with household or work items, yard tools, or when operating machinery. Children often are cut during play and sports activities, or from falls while riding wheeled toys, such as bikes, scooters, or skateboards. Most cuts are minor and home treatment is usually all that is needed.
Cuts can be caused by:
Some types of cuts are more serious and need medical evaluation and treatment. These more serious cuts include:
Injury to the skin may also break small blood vessels under the skin and cause more swelling and bruising than you would expect.
When you have a cut:
Cuts to the head or face may appear worse than they are and bleed a lot because of the good blood supply to this area. Controlling the bleeding will allow you to determine the seriousness of the injury.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
To clean a wound well:
If a chemical has caused a wound or burn, follow the instructions on the chemical's container or call your provincial poison centre to find out what to do. Most chemicals should be rinsed off with lots of water, but with some chemicals, water may make the burn worse.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Some types of facial wounds are more likely to leave a scar than others. These include:
Stitches or other treatment may help prevent scarring. It's best to get treated within 8 hours of the injury.
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
or other emergency services now.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Minor cuts usually can be treated at home. If you do not have an increased chance of getting an infection, do not have other injuries, and do not need treatment by a doctor or a tetanus shot, you can clean and bandage a cut at home. Home treatment can help prevent infection and promote healing.
The Canadian Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions with first aid treatment.
Stop the bleeding
with direct pressure to the wound.
Non-prescription products are available to be applied to the skin to help stop mild bleeding of minor cuts, lacerations, or abrasions. Before you buy or use one, be sure to read the label carefully and follow the label's instructions when you apply the product.
After you have stopped the bleeding, check your symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your doctor.
Clean the wound as soon as possible to reduce the chance of infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from dirt left in the wound.
Determine if your wound needs to be closed by a doctor with stitches, staples, or skin adhesives.
Your doctor will tell you how to take care of your stitches or staples and when to return to have them removed. Skin adhesives usually do not need to be removed, but your doctor may wish to see you to check on the wound. Be sure to carefully follow your doctor's instructions. If you are unsure of how to care for your wound or have questions, call your doctor for instructions.
Most cuts heal well and may not need a bandage. You may need to protect the cut from dirt and irritation. Be sure to clean the cut thoroughly before bandaging it to reduce the risk of infection occurring under the bandage.
Elevate the injured area on pillows anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
To prevent cuts, it is important to practice safety when using blunt or sharp objects:
Be sure to have a tetanus shot every 10 years.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofMarch 20, 2017
Current as of: March 20, 2017
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.