Self-Care for Cuts, Scrapes, and Burns
Cuts, scrapes, and burns are hard to avoid. Most minor injuries can be treated at home. A small wound may threaten your health if it causes severe blood loss or becomes infected. Call your doctor if a wound doesn't heal within a couple of weeks.
Call your health care provider right away if:
- You can't stop the bleeding.
- The wound covers a large area, is deep, or you can see muscles, tendons or bones.
- Your ear or eye is injured or burned.
- The burn is larger than the size of your palm, or is on your neck, face, foot, groin, or your hand.
- A puncture wound is deep or wide, or was caused by a dirty or rusty object.
- You have signs of infection: fever, pus, pain, or redness.
- It has been 10 years or more since your last tetanus shot.
Caring for cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds
If you're caring for someone else, remember to protect yourself from illnesses carried in blood and body fluids. Use latex gloves or whatever else is available (a towel, perhaps) as a barrier between you and the blood.
- Apply direct pressure to a cut or scrape to stop bleeding.
- Allow a minor puncture wound to stop bleeding on its own, unless the bleeding is heavy. This may help clean out the wound.
Clean the wound
- Kill germs and remove the dirt by washing the wound with warm water and soap.
- Soak a minor puncture wound in warm, sudsy water for several minutes. Repeat this at least 2 times every day.
Cover the injury
- Hold the edges of a cut together with a butterfly bandage.
- Apply antibiotic ointment.
- For a cut or scrape, apply an adhesive bandage or clean gauze. Tape it in place.
- Cover a minor puncture with gauze to absorb drainage and let in air to help with healing.
Treating minor burns
- Cool the burn immediately. Otherwise, the skin continues to hold heat and will keep burning. Use cloths soaked in cool water, place the burned area under a gentle stream of cool water, or submerge the burn in a full sink or bucket.
- Treat a minor burn like you treat a minor cut or scrape. Clean and cover it with a loose dressing.
- Do not put butter, oil, or ointment on a burn. This only seals in heat.
- Don't break blisters or pull off skin from a broken blister. This skin helps protect the healing skin underneath.