Treating Minor Cuts and Scrapes at Home…and When to Go to Urgent Care
Ouch! Cuts and scrapes are a painful fact of life. Whether you’re chopping vegetables for dinner, helping your child with an art project, or have the type of job that requires you to use tools and machinery, you’re likely to suffer minor skin injuries every now and then. Some of them can be treated at home, while others may require stitches, cleaning, and treatment that only your doctor can provide.
Many of the medications and supplies you already have in your medicine cabinet are effective in treating the majority of minor injuries you sustain around the house. “However, It’s always better to be overly cautious and visit an urgent care facility if you have any doubt about treating a wound yourself,” says Kristine Ruch-Harvey, D.O., an urgent care physician at Crozer-Keystone Health.
When You Should Go to Urgent Care
Sometimes, it’s obvious that a wound requires immediate attention. In these cases, you should never try to treat the wound yourself—call 911 immediately. In other cases, you may not be sure. Here are some general guidelines to help you tell the difference between a wound you can treat at home and one that requires a visit to urgent care.
- It Won’t Stop Bleeding: If your wound doesn’t stop bleeding after you apply pressure for five minutes, you’ll likely need stitches to close it.
Wounds that gush or squirt blood are very dangerous and require immediate medical attention. This kind of profuse bleeding may indicate that you have severed an artery, which requires treatment in the Emergency Room. Call 911 right away.
- It Doesn’t Pass the “Pinch Test”: If the wound is gaping and looks more like normal skin when you pinch it closed, it’s another good sign that you need stitches
- It’s Located in a Dangerous Spot: If you get a serious cut on your face, neck or genital area, go to urgent care right away.
- Something is Stuck in the Wound: After you clean the wound, there should not be any dirt, glass, or other foreign objects visible. If there are, or if you’ve suffered a puncture wound and the object is still stuck in your body, seek medical attention.
- You Haven’t Had a Tetanus Shot Recently: You can be exposed to the tetanus bacteria when you sustain a wound, especially wounds caused by a knife or puncture. You should go to urgent care if you haven’t had a tetanus booster in the last 10 years, or if you can’t remember when you had your last shot.
How to Treat a Wound at Home
If your wound is minor and able to be treated at home, the first step is the stop the bleeding. Apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth, which should significantly slow or stop bleeding of it in less than five minutes.
Once the bleeding has stopped, clean the wound with cool water to remove dirt and debris that could cause an infection.
Don’t use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, which can slow wound healing. Instead, use an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to keep the wound moist and clean.
If it’s a very minor wound, that may be enough. In some cases, you should apply a clean, sterile bandage to the wound. Make sure you change the dressing at least once a day, or when it’s obviously dirty or wet, to avoid infection.
Following these simple rules can help you treat minor wounds at home. Remember, it’s always fine to be cautious if you’re unsure and visit urgent care.