Cuts, Grazes & Wounds

In general, most minor cuts and grazes should be treated easily at home. All that is required is to stop any bleeding, clean the wound thoroughly and cover with a plaster or dressing, and you should begin to see healing within a few days.  Follow the steps below to reduce any risk of infection.

Treatment: 

  • Stop any bleeding before applying a dressing to the wound. 
  • Apply pressure to the area using a clean and dry absorbent material – such as a bandage, towel or handkerchief – for several minutes.
  • If the cut is to your hand or arm, raise it above your head to help reduce the flow of blood.
  • If the injury is to a lower limb, lie down and raise the affected area above the level of your heart.
  • wash and dry your hands thoroughly
  • clean the wound under drinking-quality running tap water – avoid using antiseptic as it may damage the skin and slow healing
  • pat the area dry with a clean towel
  • apply a sterile adhesive dressing, such as a plaster
  • keep the dressing clean by changing it as often as necessary. 
  • Use waterproof dressings to keep the wound dry while bathing and showering.

If the wound is painful for the first few days, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

When to get medical help

Call NHS 111 or visit your local walk-in-centre or GP if you believe your cut or wound could become infected, or you think it’s already infected.

There is a risk of infection if:

  • it’s been contaminated with dirt, pus or other fluids
  • there was something in the wound before it was cleaned, such as gravel or a shard of glass
  • it has a jagged edge
  • it’s longer than 5cm (2 inches)
  • it was caused by an animal or human bite

Signs a wound has become infected include:

  • swelling, redness and increasing pain in the affected area
  • pus forming in or around the wound
  • feeling generally unwell
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C or above
  • swollen glands under your chin or in your neck, armpits or groin

Go to A&E if …

  • the bleeding won’t stop
  • you’re bleeding from an artery – blood from an artery comes out in spurts with each beat of the heart, and is bright red and usually hard to control
  • you experience persistent or significant loss of sensation near the wound or you’re having trouble moving any body parts
  • you have a severe cut to your face – you may need urgent treatment to prevent scarring
  • you have a cut on the palm of your hand and it looks infected – these types of infection can spread quickly
  • there’s a possibility a foreign body is still inside the wound
  • the wound is very large or the injury has caused a lot of tissue damage

In A&E, your wound will be examined to determine whether there’s a risk of infection. You may need an injection to prevent tetanus (a bacterial infection), and the wound may be closed with stitches, strips or special glue before a dressing is applied.

If there’s a risk of infection, the wound won’t usually be closed because this may trap any infection inside. Instead, it will be packed with a non-sticky dressing before being covered with a protective dressing until it’s safe to close.


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