Cuts and Scrapes

Cuts and scrapes to the skin can vary from simple superficial scratches (abrasions) of the outer surface of the skin to more deep penetrating wounds that may bleed heavily.

First aid for either requires you to apply direct pressure with a clean cloth over the entire wound to stop bleeding (usually for about 10 minutes). Once the bleeding is under control, clean the wound immediately. Remember to wash your hands before cleaning, and rinse the wound thoroughly with a mild soap and water. Water flowing from a faucet or from a sprayer on a sink is often helpful to remove any dirt and debris from the wound.  After rinsing the wound for several minutes, apply a clean dressing/ bandage to protect the wound. Keep the dressing clean and dry and monitor the wound for signs of infection (redness, swelling, drainage, fever). Applying hydrogen peroxide or an antibacterial ointment is not recommended as neither will help in the healing, with peroxide actually disrupting healthy tissue and prolonging the healing. 

A tetanus booster shot may be recommended depending on immunization history and the source of the wound (e.g. a clean, sharp knife vs a dirty, rusty nail). In general, if the last tetanus booster was not within the last 5 years, follow up with a provider within 72 hours after the injury is recommended to help address this need. 

If after 10 minutes the bleeding has not stopped or continues to saturate the dressing, seek medical help immediately. Deeper cuts or wounds of any significant length (typically ½ inch or longer) may require stitches (sutures), staples, or a skin adhesive (a medically approved glue product) to close. If so, there are time limits on closing the wound due to the risk of infection.  As a general rule, most wounds that require closure should be closed within 6-8 hours after injury. Some can wait a few hours longer, but it is best to seek medical help very soon after the injury occurs if wound closure is a possibility. Student Health Services takes emergency walk-ins daily when open, and if a serious cut occurs when Student Health Services is not open, seek help at an urgent care or the local hospital emergency room.