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How to Handle a Laceration or Cut

We’ve all been there. You’re cutting up an apple to make a smoothie. As you throw a slice into the blender, you slice your hand up as well. It’s bleeding heavily. Maybe not like that Julia Child skit on Saturday Night Live, but you think you may need stitches. What now? Should you handle it yourself? Should you go to the emergency room? This guide will help.

Call 911:

  • Spurting blood
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Neck, eye, throat, chest, or abdomen wound
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Severe pain
  • Light-headedness

Do not remove an embedded object from the wound!

Visit emergency care:

Here are guidelines from WebMD and UVA Medical School:

If the laceration, or cut, doesn’t stop bleeding after 5 to 10 minutes of pressure, seek treatment. If it’s on your face, genitals, across a joint, on hands, feet or chest, or if there is exposed fat, muscle tendon, or bone, go to emergency care.

Animal bite? You need treatment. Human bite? You need treatment. And possibly garlic. (If bitten by your 3-year-old, you have other problems as well.)

Go to the emergency room if the cut is gaping or jagged or may result in a large amount of scarring. If the object that caused the cut was dirty or rusty, or the cut has something embedded in it, go see a physician. Don’t try to pull the object out. It may cause more bleeding or damage.

Head for treatment if the injury looks infected. Signs of infection include redness spreading from the wound, swelling, green or yellow discharge, or warm and tender skin.

A wound on the bottom of the foot, such as a nail through the shoe, should also receive treatment from a professional.

Before your clinic visit

Keep applying pressure if the bleeding continues and hold the injury above your heart, if possible. Probably don’t try this, however, if you have a nail in your foot.

Do not apply any kind of tourniquet. Do not use peroxide, iodine, or rubbing alcohol. They may damage the tissue.

If the bleeding stops, run warm water over the cut and gently wash with mild soap. Rinse again. Apply antibiotic cream and cover the injury with gauze to prevent infection.

If bleeding resumes and the gauze gets soaked, add more pads until the bleeding ceases. Don’t remove the pads. If a bandage is used, do not remove it. If neither are available, use a clean cloth, plastic bags, or even a clean hand.

Try to remember when you had your last tetanus shot. This is a head-scratcher for many people. But do not take the time to rummage through your old papers for your shot records. You will most likely be asked, but you can estimate.

Move quickly. Don’t take time to let out the cat or bring in the dog. Don’t lower the heat or water the plants. Just go.

What to expect at the clinic

The way the laceration is treated will depend on its size, severity, and location. Repair will most likely be done using one of these methods:

  • Dermabond: This is a type of glue which is made to hold the edges of the wound together. It is used on the face, torso, arms, legs, but not on lips, joints, deep wounds, and hand or foot injuries. Don’t try this at home with Elmer’s or Gorilla Glue! They won’t work.
  • Steristrips: For shallow cuts that are clean and even.
  • Stitches: These are used for deeper cuts that have jagged edges, or exposed fat and muscle tissue.
  • Staples: Used for injuries on the scalp, neck, torso, buttocks, arms, and legs.

Innovative Express Care is the place to go, not only for urgent care for injuries and illness, but also for primary care. IEC has state-of-the-art technology, telemedicine, online appointment arrangements, innovative ideas, and transparency. IEC is the best-rated urgent care facility in the Chicago area.

Image Source: Quinn Dombrowski