Cuts and scratches can range from the superficial to the serious, needing little care to requiring medical attention.
Assessing and Treating Cuts and Scratches
Usually, a cut or a scratch can be easily assessed to determine how serious it is. A good general rule is to determine how long or deep it is. If it’s longer than a half-inch (or a quarter-inch on the face) and leaves the skin edges gaping open, then attention from a health care provider is probably needed. Stitches or other methods are often required to close the wound.
For an openly bleeding wound, it’s important to use direct pressure with a clean cloth for 10 minutes to try to stop the bleeding. If it doesn’t stop after 10 minutes, get emergency medical attention. If it does stop, clean the wound with water and soap. However, seek help if you can’t get the wound completely clean.
Once bleeding has stopped and the wound is clean, an application of an antibiotic ointment and a bandage is the next step. Or, try a liquid skin bandage, which has advantages over the traditional bandage in many instances.
In addition to a cut that won’t stop bleeding, cuts that have pus, redness, streaks or don’t heal after 10 days need medical attention because they might be infected. Also, call the doctor if a child with a cut or scratch hasn’t had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years.
As a scab starts to form over the wound, don’t pick it. A scab is an important part of the body’s healing process.SOURCES: American Academy of Family Physicians; Children’s Physicians Network