Minor Trauma – Cuts and grazes
Cuts and grazes are among the most common of all injuries and most are not serious. They usually only cause problems if they get infected.
- A graze (or abrasion) is an injury to the skin in which skin is scraped off by rubbing against a rough surface. Some grazes only take off the surface layer of skin leaving a raw tender area underneath, some are much deeper. In rare cases the whole thickness of the skin may be removed in some places. Falls, scrapes and friction burns can all cause grazes.
- A cut is a tear in the skin. The injury is usually caused by a sharp edge of some kind and some cuts are more serious than others. Paper cuts, accidental nicks with a razor and stab wounds are all types of cut. The medical name for a cut is a laceration.
Both cuts and grazes can get things embedded (stuck) in them such as gravel.
Cuts and grazes may bleed and feel slightly painful. The area may be painful and take longer to heal if you knock it against something while it's healing.
The affected area will probably scab over while it is healing. This may leave a small scar depending on how deep the cut is and what part of your body is affected. For example, the area around the joints like the knees and elbows take longer to heal because they are constantly moving.
If the area is red, sore and painful or is oozing pus, it may be infected. You need to see your doctor as soon as possible and may have to take antibiotics to clear up the infection.
For minor cuts and grazes, washing them well and covering them with a plaster or dressing is usually all that is needed.
For more serious cuts where there is a lot of bleeding such as on the palm of the hand or a joint crease - Apply pressure to the area to stop the bleeding using a bandage or towel, and Lie down and raise the injured area above the level of the heart so the bleeding slows down and stops. If your injury is more serious, contact your doctor or go to your local walk-in-centre or A&E (accident and emergency) department.
If you're unsure how serious your injury is, it's best to get a doctor to check it to be on the safe side. They will need to examine deep cuts to find out how serious they are, and clean the wounds very thoroughly before stitching them up.
Get medical advice if:
- The injury doesn't stop bleeding
- The injury is very large or very deep
- The injury was caused by a bite (all bites need medical attention)
- There is something embedded (stuck) in the cut or graze
- The injury is on a joint crease or to an artery
- It's red, sore and painful or has pus coming out (it may be infected) or
- The injury is an old wound that looks like it might be infected
It is very important to check you are up to date with your tetanus jabs if your skin is broken in an injury or you are bitten. With very severe grazes, so much skin may have been lost that you may need a skin graft. The surgeon will take some skin from another part of your body and put it over the wound.
The most common complication of cuts and grazes is infection. Make sure the wound is cleaned thoroughly (but do not use antiseptic) before dressing it. See your doctor if you notice any signs of infection such as swelling or oozing pus. Always make sure you are up to date with you tetanus jabs. Tetanus is a serious infection that can lead to death. It occurs when certain germs get into the body through a wound.
Scars can form if the cut is very deep or if you pick at a scab. Scars are more likely to form on areas such as the knees and elbows.