Cuts and Scrapes and Medical Care
Question: It's not always clear whether a cut or scrape needs medical care. When do wounds require medical attention as opposed to home care?
Answer: Unless you live in a protective bubble, there's no escaping the cuts and scrapes that are inevitable in life. But even if you cannot eliminate your chances of suffering an injury, you can certainly minimize the potential complications wounds can cause.
The primary goals of wound care are healing, preventing infection and minimizing scarring. The complexity and severity of wounds generally determines whether medical treatment is needed or if home care will do.
Many wounds, such as scrapes, small cuts and minor burns, are superficial and can generally be treated at home by thoroughly cleaning the wound, stopping the bleeding with pressure and keeping the wound properly bandaged. When wounds penetrate beyond the outer layers of the skin, cause considerable blood loss or cover large portions of the body, medical care becomes a necessary consideration.
Medical attention is needed if you experience any of the following wounds or conditions:
- Any human or animal bite.
- Cuts that reveal deep tissues, such as fat, tendons, muscle or bone.
- Bleeding that spurts with your pulse or that doesn't subside after 10 minutes of applying pressure.
- Wounds that contain debris (glass, dirt, wood, etc.) even after cleaning.
- Wounds that become red, warm or produce yellow drainage after a couple of days.
- If you lose sensation or movement in your body within the vicinity of the injury.
- If your tetanus shot is not up to date.
- If you are unsure about the severity of a wound, experience significant pain, or do not feel comfortable with home treatment, don't hesitate to contact your physician or seek medical care.
Reviewed September 2010