Cuts, Scrapes, and Scratches

What is a cut, scrape, or scratch?

Scrapes and scratches are areas of damage to the upper layers of skin. They may go into the deeper layers of skin and they may bleed, but they don’t gape open to expose the fatty tissue beneath the skin.

Cuts, or lacerations, are openings into or through the skin. Cuts may go only through the skin or they may go into the deeper fatty or muscle tissues.

How does it occur?

Scrapes and scratches occur when something harder than your skin comes into contact with it: for example, when you fall onto the sidewalk or when a nail or pet scratches you.

Cuts can occur from a variety of things. Most often they are caused by something sharp like glass or sharp metal that slices into your skin. Sometimes things that are not sharp can hit your skin with such force that the skin tears.

What are the symptoms?

  • pain

  • redness

  • sometimes bleeding.

How is it diagnosed?

Your Reddy Urgent Care healthcare provider will ask about what happened and examine you.

How is it treated?

The treatment of a cut depends on the depth of the cut. Shallow cuts that go just into the upper skin can be treated at home just as you would a scrape or scratch (see below). Deeper cuts may need to be closed with skin glue, stitches, or staples. There are no hard and fast rules about this because the treatment depends in part on where the cut is. For example, you may want a cut on your face to be closed carefully to lessen scarring. If it were on your foot you might not care so much about scarring. It also depends on how long and deep the cut is and how it happened. For example, very dirty wounds like animal bites are generally not closed because they are more likely to get infected.

When you have a scrape, scratch, or minor cut:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds before you touch the area.

  • Clean the wound as completely as possible with mild soap and warm water. Remove any bits of dirt, small pieces of rock, or other debris.

  • Put an antibiotic ointment on the wound and cover it with a bandage.

  • Keep the wound and the area around it clean and dry

  • Clean the wound with warm water and mild soap 2 times every day. Pat it dry with a clean towel. When you are cleaning the wound, look for signs of infection such as increased swelling, redness, any drainage (like pus), or red streaks going away from the wound towards your heart.

  • Change the bandage daily, keeping the wound covered until it heals. If your bandage becomes wet or dirty, put a clean one on as soon as you can. If the bandage sticks when you try to take it off, use a clean washcloth soaked in warm water to help loosen the bandage edges.

  • If the wound is dirty or involved rusty metal and it has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus booster shot, or if you do not know when your last booster was, get another tetanus shot within 3 days of getting hurt. Try to get the shot the same day as the injury if possible. If it is not possible to get the shot within 3 days of the injury, get it as soon as you can.

  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the pain. Don’t take aspirin if your cut, scratch, or scrape is bleeding a lot. Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason.

Come to Reddy Urgent Care if:

  • Bleeding continues after 10 minutes of direct pressure, or comes in spurts.

  • A cut is gaping, deep, or jagged.

  • A cut is a half inch or longer.

  • A cut is over a joint or you can see bone.

  • A wound cannot be cleaned, is very dirty, or has a foreign body embedded.

  • You have a cut on your face.

  • You think you might have damaged a nerve or tendon.

  • You might have been exposed to rabies.

  • You have a scrape that covers a large area, for example, larger than 4 by 4 inches.

  • After the injury you can’t move the part that was hurt (for example, you can’t bend or lift the tip of your finger) or you have lost feeling in the area that was hurt.

  • Your tetanus shots are not up to date.

  • You have a puncture wound, especially if you cannot tell how deep it is.

  • You have a cut on your hand and are worried that you might lose the ability to use that part of your hand.

How long will the effects last?

If you have a cut that was glued shut, you can just wait for the glue to wear away. See the instructions that were given to you about wound care after gluing. If your wound was stitched shut and the stitches do not dissolve on their own, you will need to have them taken out. (If you can see the stitches going through your skin, they are not the kind that dissolves.) Your healthcare provider will tell you how to care for the sutured wound and when you need to return to the office for removal of the stitches or staples. Depending on where a cut is, it will take about 5 to 14 days to heal and then your provider will remove the stitches or staples.

Your scrape or scratch will probably heal in a week or so, depending on how large it is (the larger it is, the longer it takes). If you have other medical problems, it may take longer to heal. If your wound hasn’t healed after 2 weeks, call your Reddy Urgent Care healthcare provider.

Come to Reddy Urgent Care if:

  • You start to have any signs or symptoms of infection. These include:

    • o.Your skin is redder or more painful.

    • o.You have red streaks from the wound going toward your heart.

    • o.The wound area is very warm to touch.

    • o.You have pus or other fluid coming from the wound area.

    • o.You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C).

    • o.You have headache, chills, nausea, vomiting, or muscle aches.

  • The wound seems to be opening up or you notice drainage.

  • The wound bleeds for more than 10 minutes.

  • The stitches or staples are loose.

  • The adhesive film is loosening before it is supposed to.

  • You have any symptoms that worry you.