Scrapes and lacerations (cuts)
Minor scrapes and cuts are a common part of life. You can treat minor injuries at home with basic first aid and antibiotic ointments, but you should come to urgent care when a cut needs stitches or the injury needs extra help healing.
Are cuts the same as lacerations?
Yes! Unlike a scrape or abrasion where skin is missing, cuts and lacerations are both injuries where the tissue is separated—they’re the exact same thing.
When to consider urgent care
You or your child needs medical attention if a scrape or laceration is:
- Bleeding heavily and does not stop bleeding after five to 10 minutes of direct pressure.
- On the face, especially when close to the eye.
- Caused by a puncture wound, or dirty or rusty object.
- Dirty with debris like earth, leaves or gravel.
- Ragged or has separated edges.
- Caused by an animal or human bite.
- Extremely painful.
- Showing signs of infection, such as increased warmth, redness, swelling, or fluid leaking.
Also call your doctor if:
- Your child has not had a tetanus shot within the past five years, or if you are unsure when your child’s last tetanus shot was given.
- You are concerned about the wound or have any questions.
Healing cuts and scrapes at home
To take care of cuts and scrapes:
- Calm your child and them know you can help.
- Apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for several minutes to stop the bleeding. For a lot of bleeding, press on the wound firmly for five to 10 minutes with a clean cloth. Do not stop to look at the cut. If the cloth becomes soaked with blood, put a new cloth on top of the old cloth. Do not lift the first cloth.
- Wash your hands well to reduce the risk of infection.
- Clean the wound by washing the cut area well with soap and water. Do not scrub the wound. Remove any dirt particles from the area. Let the water from the faucet run over it for several minutes. A dirty cut or scrape that is not fully cleaned can cause scarring or infection.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment or cream like Bacitracin or Polysporin.
- Cover the area with an adhesive bandage or gauze pad if the area is on the hands or feet. Change the dressing often.
- Watch for signs of infection each day, and keep the wound clean and dry to prevent infection.
- Do not blow on the cut or scrape! This can cause germs to grow and create a risk of infection, including sepsis, a blood infection.
Speeding up healing. Scrapes and lacerations will heal more quickly if you keep the wound clean and dressed. Skin tissue needs to be clean, moist and warm to heal as quickly as possible. This means keeping the scrape or cut covered with a clean dressing until the skin is pink and healing.
MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Laceration versus puncture wound (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19616.htm)
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): National Library of Medicine. Laceration (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545166/)