Cuts, Scrapes, or Bruises (Skin Injury)
Bruise from Coumadin
- Cuts and Scratches: Surface cuts or scratches that only go partially through the skin. They rarely get infected. Deep cuts, called lacerations, go through the skin.
- Scrapes: An area of surface skin that has been scraped off. This often happens to the knees, elbows, and palms.
- Bruises: These result from a direct blow or a crushing injury. There is bleeding into the skin from damaged blood vessels. There is no cut or scrape.
- Abrasion: This is the medical term for scraped skin. This happens when an injury scrapes off the top layer of the skin. Examples are when people "scrape" their elbow or "skin" their knee. Pain is usually mild. This can usually be treated at home. Making certain the wound is clean is the most important thing.
- Contusion: This is the medical term for bruise. It is caused by a direct blow to the skin and muscles. The skin is not broken, there is no cut. The bruised skin may first look red, then purple, and finally orange-yellow. These skin color changes are from blood that leaked from tiny torn blood vessels in the bruised area. The skin may also be swollen. Pain is usually mild to moderate. Bruises are tender to touch. Most often this can be treated at home. A cold pack can help reduce the pain and swelling.
- Cut - Superficial: Superficial cuts (scratches) only extend partially through the skin and rarely become infected. A scratch is an injury to the skin made by a sharp edge. For example, scratches can be caused by fingernails, a sharp nail, a piece of metal, or a branch of a tree or bush. A paper cut is a scratch from the edge of a piece of paper. This can usually be treated at home. Making certain the wound is clean is the most important thing.
- Cut - Deep: Deep cuts (lacerations) go through the skin. A laceration is caused by cutting the skin with the sharp edge of an object. This can happen from a knife, a razor, a piece of glass, or the sharp edge of a piece of metal. Making certain the wound is clean is very important. Stitches may be needed.
When Are Stitches Needed?
- Any cut that is split open or gaping most likely needs stitches. Cuts longer than 1/2 inch (12 mm) most often need stitches. On the face, cuts longer than ¼ inch (6 mm) most often need stitches.
- A doctor should look at any open wound that may need stitches. A doctor should be seen regardless of the time passed since the injury.
When Can Liquid Skin Bandage Be Used?
Liquid skin bandage has many benefits when compared to a regular bandage. Liquid skin bandage can be used for small shallow cuts. It can also be used on scratches and scrapes. It only needs to be put on minor cuts and scrapes once. It helps stop minor bleeding. Liquid skin bandage seals the wound and may help it to heal faster. It also lowers infection rates. It also costs more than adhesive bandages (Band-Aids).
- Instructions: After the wound is washed and dried, spray or swab on the liquid. It dries in less than 1 minute and most often lasts a week. You can bathe as normal.
- Examples: Band-Aid Liquid Bandage, New Skin, Curad Spray Bandage, and 3M No Sting Liquid Bandage Spray.
What is Tetanus?
- It is a rare infection caused by bacteria found in places like dirt and soil. These bacteria enter through a break in the skin. They then spread through the body.
- Tetanus is often called "lock jaw." The first symptom is a tightening of the muscles of the face. The final stage of the infection is much more serious. All of the body and breathing muscles go into severe spasm. A person with a tetanus infection can lose the ability to breathe. Even with treatment in a hospital, a person can die from tetanus.
- A tetanus shot protects a person from getting tetanus. It can also protect a person from other kinds of infections.
When Does an Adult Need a Tetanus Shot?
- Clean Cuts and Scrapes: Tetanus shot needed every 10 years. People with clean wounds who have had a full series (3 or more shots) will need a booster every 10 years. Minor wounds include a surface scrape or a cut sustained while washing dishes. If a shot is needed, get it within 72 hours.
- Dirty Cuts and Scrapes: Tetanus shot needed every 5 years. People with dirty wounds need a booster every 5 years. Dirty wounds include those contaminated with soil, feces, and saliva. They also include more serious wounds from deep punctures, crushing, and burns. Get a shot within 72 hours. When in doubt, assume that the wound is dirty.
When to call your doctor
Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If
- Major bleeding (nonstop bleeding or spurting)
- Knife wound (or other deep cut) to the chest, stomach, back, neck, or head
- Note: For bleeding, see First Aid
- You think you have a life-threatening emergency
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- You think you have a serious injury
- Severe pain
- Bleeding that won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
- Cut causes numbness or loss of feeling
- Cut causes weakness (can't move finger or toe)
- Cut is very deep (can see bone or tendons)
- Cut is split open or gaping and may need stitches
- Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
- Skin loss from bad scrape goes very deep
- Skin loss involves greater than 10% of body surface (the hand's surface equals 1% of body surface)
- High pressure injection injury such as a paint gun; usually at work
- Cut or scrape has redness, a red streak, or pus
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think you need to be seen
- Several bruises occur without any known injury
- Very large bruise follows a minor injury (2 inches or wider, 5 cm or wider)
- Diabetic with any cut or scrape on foot
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Last tetanus shot was more than 10 years ago (5 years for dirty cuts and scrapes)
Self Care at Home If
- Minor cut, scrape, or bruise
CARE ADVICE FOR MINOR CUT, SCRAPE, OR BRUISE
- What You Should Know:
- Cuts and scrapes are types of skin wounds. Bruises are the result of injuries that cause blood vessels to leak without breaking the skin.
- Cuts and scrapes can become infected, so need to be taken care of.
- You can treat minor skin injuries at home.
- Here is some care advice that should help.
- Treatment of Minor Cuts, Scratches, and Scrapes:
- Use direct pressure for 10 minutes to stop any bleeding.
- Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
- Gently scrub out any dirt with a washcloth.
- Cut off any pieces of dead loose skin using small sharp scissors. Clean the scissors with rubbing alcohol before and after use.
- Put on an antibiotic ointment, covered by an adhesive bandage (Band-Aid) or dressing. Change daily.
- Another option is to use a liquid skin bandage. This only needs to be put on once. Avoid using ointments with this.
- Treatment of Minor Bruise:
- Cold Pack: For pain or swelling, use a cold pack or ice wrapped in a wet cloth. Put it on the sore area for 20 minutes. Repeat 4 times on the first day, then as needed.
- Heat Pack:
- If pain lasts over 2 days, apply heat to the sore area. Use a heat pack, heating pad or warm wet washcloth. Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed.
- For widespread stiffness, take a hot bath or hot shower instead. Move the sore area under the warm water.
- Rest the injured part as much as you can for 48 hours.
- Pain Medicines:
- You can take one of the drugs listed below if you have pain.
- They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
- Regular Strength Tylenol: Take 2 pills (650 mg) every 4-6 hours. Each pill has 325 mg of acetaminophen.
- Extra Strength Tylenol: Take 2 pills (1,000 mg) every 8 hours. Each pill has 500 mg of acetaminophen.
- Do not take more than (3,000 mg) of this drug per day.
- Motrin and Advil: Take 2 pills (400 mg) every 6 hours. Each pill has 200 mg of ibuprofen.
- A second choice is to take 3 pills (600 mg) every 8 hours.
- Aleve: Take 1 pill (220 mg) every 8 hours. Each pill has 220 mg of naproxen.
- A second choice is to take 2 pills (440 mg) every 12 hours.
- Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
- Your doctor might tell you to take more than what is shown above. That is because your doctor knows you and your health problems.
- Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old. Acetaminophen is in many OTC and prescription drugs. It might be in more than one drug you are taking. Be careful how much you take. Too much of this drug can hurt the liver.
- Caution- Acetaminophen: Do not take it if you have liver disease.
- Caution- Ibuprofen and Naproxen:
- Do not take ibuprofen or naproxen if you are pregnant.
- Do not take these drugs if you have stomach problems or kidney disease.
- Do not take these drugs for more than 7 days without checking with your doctor.
- Read all package instructions.
- What to Expect: Pain and swelling most often get better 2-3 days after an injury. Swelling is most often gone in 7 days. Pain may take 2 weeks to go away.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- The wound has pus, redness, or is tender to touch
- The wound does not heal within 10 days
- You get worse
Author: David A. Thompson, M.D.
Last reviewed: 9/1/2012
Last revised: 6/14/2013 10:32:16 AM