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Broken skin in the form of a cut or a scrape can pose the risk of infection. If the injury is severe stitches are needed. Therefore, it is important to know how to take proper care of a cut, scrape or stitches at home and when to visit a doctor for help.

First aid for a cut

Usually, if a cut is not serious, it will heal without any medical care by taking the below steps:

  • Apply compression with a clean, soft cloth on the cut for a few minutes to stop the bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop, then continue to apply pressure for some more time.
  • While applying the pressure do not lift the cloth in an urge as the clotting process gets disturbed.
  • If the wound has occurred on the leg or arm, then raising it above the level of the heart can help to reduce bleeding.
  • Once the bleeding stops, clean the wound by flushing it with warm water for about 5 minutes. Use soap to gently wash only the surrounding skin. Remove the debris from the wound using a soft, damp cloth. Cleaning removes the bacteria that could cause infection.
  • If necessary, apply a thin coating of antibiotic around the cut. This helps in a faster healing and prevents the formation of a scar.
  • Once it is almost dry, cover the wound with a bandage. Change the bandage every day and whenever it becomes wet or soiled.
  • Do not remove the scab to prevent infection and reduce the risk of scarring.

First aid for scrapes

Scrapes are the wounds which cover a large area. The following steps can prevent the permanent discoloration of skin associated with scrapes:

  • Wash the scrape immediately with soap and warm water. Gently remove or rinse the dirt.
  • Apply diluted peroxide and leave it for 2 minutes to prevent the formation of a scab. Wipe away any scab which has accumulated. Rinse the peroxide with water and apply antibiotic ointment.
  • In case of a scrape, special bandages known as occlusive or semi-occlusive bandages should be applied over the ointment. They help in keeping the scrape moist and clean, thereby, preventing discoloration of the skin.
  • Avoid exposing the scrape to sunlight.
  • Watch for the signs of infection such as fever, changes of surrounding skin color to red and foul-smelling green discharge from the wound.

Continue to apply the ointment and dressing until the scrape heals to light pink with no sores.

Call the doctor

Call the doctor for help, if:

  • the body temperature is more than 100o f
  • the area surrounding the wound becomes numb
  • the cut or scrape becomes red and inflamed
  • there is excessive bleeding or if the bleeding does not stop even after 10 minutes
  • the wound has occurred on the face
  • the dirt from the cut or scrape cannot be cleaned properly
  • there is a thick, grayish, creamy discharge from the cut or scrape
  • the edges of the cut hang open
  • the cut is deep or if there is a puncture wound
  • the scrape is large

Need for stitches

The following features of the cut indicate a need for stitches if:

  • Gaping cut which does not close when gently tugged in
  • Cut with dark red muscle or yellowish fat visible through the gap
  • Cut larger than ½ cm and is wide open
  • Any cut on face (to reduce the risk of scar)

Stitches help to stop bleeding and result in a better cosmetic outcome by reducing the risk of a big scar formation. However, there would be a minor scar, and it is slightly painful to have stitches. The stitches may be removed after a few days based on the location of the injury. Sometimes, biodegradable stitches may be used which need not be removed but dissolve by themselves safely in the skin.

Usually, the cut may be closed anytime within the first 24 hours of injury. However, sometimes it needs to be closed sooner but not before 8 hours of injury.

Self-care of stitches

It is important to follow the below measures after a wound is closed with stitches:

  • Do not allow the wound or stitches to get wet at least for 24 – 48 hours.
  • Do not pick up any scab that is formed over a cut or scrape.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment as prescribed by the doctor.
  • Cover the wound for at least 48 hours or more if possible.

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