Basic First Aid Series: Minor Cuts and Grazes

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Cuts are a common everyday occurrence and, generally, do not pose a threat to health. Nevertheless, there are important principles that should be kept in mind when treating such ailments. Most cases only need cleaning and application of a dressing.

If the cut is bleeding heavily, the bleeding should first be stopped by applying gentle pressure to the area and raising the affected area above the level of the heart. We will deal with severe bleeding and objects in wounds in the next article.

If there is no bleeding, or the bleeding stops, the cut can now be dressed. If there are small objects in the wound, they may be removed using tweezers which have been cleaned with alcohol.

Ensure your hands are thoroughly clean and any cuts on your hands (if you’re the one treating them) are appropriately covered. Wash the wound under clean running water and dry it with a clean towel. Do not use soap on the wound itself. If the area around the wound is dirty, use a facecloth to clean its surrounding area.

Apply a suitably sized dressing, such as a plaster. Make sure that it is changed frequently so that the wound remains clean and dry. Once the wound has healed over enough to prevent infection, it can be exposed to the air as this will speed up healing.

Most cuts heal on their own. However, one has to keep an eye out for any signs of infection that might require further attention. These include increasing pain and redness, continuous discharge, fever, swelling, formation of pus, general unwellness and swollen glands. A wound is at a higher risk of being infected if it is contaminated, if its edges are jagged, if the cut is longer than 5cm and there is something in the wound before it is cleaned.

You should also see your GP if the wound was from a bite, whether from an animal or a person.

References: http://www.sja.org.uk  
http://www.nhs.uk/chq 
http://raisingchildren.net.au