Home > Health & Wellness > Health Library > Cuts
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.
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.
You may need a tetanus shot depending
on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
To clean a wound well:
If a chemical has caused a wound or burn, follow the instructions on the chemical's container or call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) 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.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
With severe bleeding, any of these may
With moderate bleeding, any of these may
With mild bleeding, any of these may be
Symptoms of infection may
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.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Pain in adults and older children
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
Call911or other emergency services now.
Based on your answers, you need
Put direct, steady pressure on the
wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
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 American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions with first aid treatment.
Stop the bleeding with direct pressure
to the wound.
Nonprescription 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.
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
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015
Current as of:
February 20, 2015
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
I want to...
1111 Duff Avenue Ames, Iowa 50010
515-239-2011 Email us
Anywhere in Iowa 800-524-6877