Cuts, Scrapes, and Gashes – How To Treat Skin Lacerations
“Laceration” is a medical term for a cut or tear in the skin, usually resulting from contact with a sharp object like a knife or shard of glass, or from blunt force trauma. A laceration can cause bleeding, as well as other concerns like pain, infection, damage to underlying muscle and tissue, and scarring.
Most minor cuts can be safely and effectively self-treated. To help prevent infection and promote healing, the initial care for a laceration should include:
- Direct pressure – To control the bleeding, use a clean cloth (if available; otherwise, use your hand) to apply direct pressure to the cut, and maintain the pressure at a constant level for at least 10 minutes. During this time, do not interrupt the pressure to examine the wound or for any other reason.
- Cleaning – To remove any dirt or foreign substances from the laceration, gently use mild soap and cool running water. Do not scrub or apply rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine, which can inhibit the healing process.
- Antibiotic ointment – After thoroughly cleaning the cut, lightly apply an antibiotic ointment and then cover the wound with a sterile gauze bandage to help keep it clean and dry.
- Cold therapy – Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling and bruising (do not apply ice directly to the wound). Rest with the injured area elevated on pillows at or above the level of your heart, which can help to further reduce bleeding and swelling.
When self-treating, it’s important to recognize skin lacerations that require medical attention. Call a doctor immediately if there is:
- Bleeding that persists after the application of direct pressure for 10-15 minutes
- A laceration with separated, uneven, or jagged edges
- A wound depth of more than 1/8”
- Debris in the cut that is either visible or felt
- Exposed muscle or bone
- Any risk of tetanus, which can arise through a bacterial infection from dirt, saliva, or feces
To learn more or obtain laceration treatment from a physician, please contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic. We can evaluate the severity of your injury, clean your wound, and determine whether you need a tetanus booster, stitches, or any other type of treatment. In the event that your laceration requires emergency care, we can provide you with a referral to a nearby hospital.