Cuts and scratches are common household wounds that may happen at any time and for many reasons. But there’s no need to panic if you hurt yourself this way.

Wash your hands first.

Before you even touch the wound, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. This will remove any dirt from your hands. You want clean hands so you don’t accidentally add dirt to the wound that may infect it later.

Stop the bleeding.

If the wound is bleeding, you’ll need to stop the bleeding. Gently press material—such as a clean cloth or gauze—on the wound. Don’t press too hard as this can make the wound hurt more than it already does.

Then, while keeping the wound covered, lift it above the level of your heart, if possible. This can help stop the bleeding. Maintain pressure for several minutes. Also, don’t lift the material often to see if the bleeding has stopped. Doing so may keep the wound bleeding for a longer time.

Clean the cut.

Once the bleeding has stopped, you need to wash the wound. This may be painful but it’s a necessary step. Do this by holding the cut under running water. The water will help wash any dirt or debris out of the wound. After washing it, look at the wound.

If you see debris still in it, try to gently remove the debris with tweezers that have been dipped in rubbing alcohol. (Note: You shouldn’t use hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound.) Once the wound is clean, gently wash the surrounding skin with soap and water. Lightly press the area with a clean cloth, such as a towel, to dry the entire area.

Apply protection.

Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment (one brand name: Neosporin) or petroleum jelly (one brand name: Vaseline) to the wound. This will help keep the wound clean, keep infection at bay, and perhaps lessen scarring.

Then cover the wound for protection. Use a bandage or gauze with an elastic bandage. This cover is sometimes called a dressing. Every day, you need to reapply the ointment or petroleum jelly and change the dressing.

Watch for infection.

When you change the dressing, look for signs of infection in the wound. Symptoms include swelling, redness, and more pain than when the wound happened. As time goes by, your wound will develop a scab.

That’s the natural way it protects itself. Once a scab develops, you don’t need to cover it with any type of dressing. And avoid the temptation to pick at the scab.


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