Cuts and Grazes

Cuts and grazes

Cuts and grazes can usually be treated at home. A cut is when the skin is fully broken, and a graze is when only the top layers of skin are scraped off.

Treating minor cuts and grazes

For most cuts and grazes, cleaning them thoroughly with running tap water and covering them with a plaster or dressing is all that is needed.

Stopping the bleeding

If your cut or graze is bleeding heavily, or is on a particularly delicate area of your body, you should stop the bleeding before applying any kind of dressing.

Apply pressure to the area using a bandage or a towel. If the cut is to your hand or arm, raise it above your head. If the injury is to a lower limb, lie down and raise the affected area above the level of your heart so the bleeding slows down and stops.

Dressing

To dress a cut or graze at home:

  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly
  • Clean the wound with running tap water, but do not use antiseptic because it may damage the tissue and slow down healing
  • Pat the area dry with a clean towel
  • Apply a sterile, adhesive dressing, such as a plaster
  • There is no need to apply antiseptic cream or similar ointments. Do not use cotton wool or tissue to dress wounds, as these will stick to the surface and can be difficult (and painful) to remove later.
  • Keep the dressing clean by changing it as often as necessary and keep the wound dry by using waterproof dressings, which allow light wetting (showering).

 The wound should heal by itself in a few days. 

If the wound is painful, you can take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. When taking medication, always check the packaging for recommendations regarding use and dose.

If you are unsure how serious your injury is, or if it has not healed after a few days, see your doctor. 

When to seek medical help

  • Your injury is very large, very deep.
  • Excessive bleeding - blood spurting from the wound or bleeding that does not stop after five minutes of continuous firm pressure (even if the wound is small).
  • You think you have damaged deeper tissues: signs include numbness (indicating injury to a nerve) or is on a joint crease. 
  • Your injury was caused by a bite
  • The wound is at risk of becoming infected: for example, a cut has been contaminated with soil, faeces or a dirty blade, or fragments of material (such as grit or glass) can be seen in the wound. 
  • The wound cannot be closed with a plaster, or it starts to open up when you move.
  • The wound will create an unwelcome scar: for example, if it occurs on a prominent part of your face. 
  • The wound has become infected: signs include swelling of the affected area, pus coming from the wound, redness spreading from the wound and increasing pain from the wound.

More information

Managing cuts and grazes