Treating cuts

26 March 2014

So, you usually cut yourself while working in the garage or kitchen and the kids when they’re playing outside. Cuts happen frequently and most of us suffer one at some time or other. Experts from Crisis on Call have tips and advice on how to treat cuts.


You get superficial and deep cuts. The latter should preferably be treated by a medical person.

Take someone to hospital if:

  • • The wound won’t stop bleeding even after pressure has been applied for 20 minutes.
  • • The cut is deep, longer than 6 mm and on the face, hands, feet, head, wrist or genitals.
  • • The cut is in the mouth and longer than 1,25 cm.
  • • The cut runs across the cheek to the corner of the mouth.
  • • There’s a gaping cut on the tongue.
  • • The cut is so deep you can see fat or bone.
  • • There’s an object such as a piece of glass, scissors or knife in the wound. Don’t remove the object as this will cause the cut to bleed even more.
  • • The person has never had a tetanus injection.
  • • The wound is still painful four hours after it’s been treated at home.
  • • The wound needs stitches. This must be done within eight hours because it starts healing immediately and if left for longer won’t close up easily.


How to treat a serious cut before a professional can look at it:

  1. 1. Don’t try to remove any object inside the wound. Leave it where it is.
  2. 2. Wash your hands well.
  3. 3. If you have gloves on hand put them on.
  4. 4. Put a clean towel, piece of cloth or sterile gauze bandage directly on the wound.
  5. 5. Press hard on the covered wound – the pressure helps to stop the bleeding.
  6. 6. While applying pressure call the emergency services for help.

How to treat less serious cuts at home:

  1. 1. Wash your hands well.
  2. 2. If you have gloves on hand put them on.
  3. 3. Put a clean towel, piece of cloth or sterile gauze bandage directly on the wound.
  4. 4. Press hard on the covered wound – the pressure helps to stop the bleeding.
  5. 5. Wash the wound carefully but thoroughly with warm soapy water.
  6. 6. If the wound is on a finger or hand remove rings to avoid discomfort in the event of further swelling.
  7. 7. To reduce immediate pain and swelling put an ice pack on the wound but don’t leave it on the wound for longer than 10 minutes at a time.
  8. 8. If the wound is on the arm or leg raise the limb above the heart for the first 24 hours.
  9. 9. Apply antiseptic ointment.
  10. 10. Don’t use alcohol on the wound as it burns and doesn’t help to disinfect the wound.
  11. 11. Don’t bandage or put a plaster on facial wounds. Leave them open so they can air.
  12. 12. Bandage cuts on limbs with a sterile bandage.
  13. 13. Bath or shower daily as usual and carefully clean the wound under the water.
  14. 14. Change the dressing daily or more often if it gets wet.
  15. 15. Check for signs of infection every day (see next heading).
  16. 16. See a doctor if the cut hasn’t healed after two weeks.

Infection: what are the signs?

  • • Symptoms associated with cuts are usually tenderness, redness, swelling and pain. The symptoms should disappear within 10 to 14 days; if not, consult a doctor.
  • • If the symptoms get worse rather than better is could be a sign of infection.
  • • Fever is a sign of infection.
  • • If the wound secretes pus (a yellowish liquid with an unpleasant smell) seek medical advice.

What should I keep in my first-aid box?

  • • Gloves
  • • Sterile gauze
  • • Sterile bandages
  • • Plasters
  • • Antiseptic ointment

How to prevent cuts

  • • Use protective clothing and equipment when taking part in sport.
  • • Keep an eye out for sharp or broken objects.
  • • Be careful in the kitchen while preparing food and using sharp utensils such as knives and tin openers.

-Shané Barnard

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