Physical injuries that lead to breakage in the outer layer of the skin are referred to as cuts or scrapes. These are very common in our day-to-day life. Cuts in the skin are often caused by use of sharp objects like knives, glass pieces, and razor blades; whereas, scrapes are caused when the skin brushes against a rough surface or ground, resulting in skin abrasion. Though scrapes often cover a larger skin surface, they are superficial as compared to cuts. Cuts are called puncture wounds, if they are caused by piercing objects such as pins and nails.
The severity depends on the depth of the injury and the amount of bleeding. The extent of bleeding may vary, depending upon the area of injury, for e.g. cuts on the head, face, mouth, hand or foot often result in heavy bleeding, as there are many blood vessels close to the skin surface in these places.
Even mild cuts are prone to infection. Treatment can be done at home itself, unless it is very severe.
- The first and foremost step that should be followed is to stop the wound from bleeding. Apply pressure directly to the cut area by using a clean cloth or bandage. Use your finger for applying pressure, if no cloth or bandage is available. If there is blood seepage in the cloth, then increase the pressure until the bleeding stops. Placing an ice pack on the cut also stops bleeding. Usually, bleeding stops within 5 minutes.
- Once the bleeding stops, rinse and clean the hurt by placing it under running water. Remove any foreign material such as dirt or grit from the wound, since it increases the risk of infection and scarring. One can use sterilized gauze and tweezers (if required) for cleaning the wound. If bleeding restarts, apply firm pressure again, until it stops. For disinfecting the wound, dilute hydrogen peroxide can be used.
- Apply over-the-counter antiseptic cream or lotion and then cover the wound using adhesive bandage or a gauze pad. Covering the wound reduces the risk of infection.
It is always recommended to maintain hygiene and keep the wound clean, in order to avoid infection. Check and replace the dressing with a clean bandage everyday. Change the dressing immediately in case it becomes wet or dirty. Some signs of infection are reddening and inflammation of the affected area, pus discharge, increased pain, and sometimes fever.
It is always advisable to consult a physician in situations like: the cut is deep or extensive, the bleeding does not stop in ten minutes, in case of difficulty in removing dirt or debris, the edges of the skin are separated (open wounds), and puncture wounds. The physician may recommend stitches in order to hasten healing, prevent infection, and reduce scar formation. Nowadays, the method of gluing is often used instead of stitches. The doctor may also administer a tetanus shot, if necessary.