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Cuts and puncture wounds

Wound - cut or puncture; Open wound; Laceration; Puncture wound

 

A cut is a break or opening in the skin. It is also called a laceration. A cut may be deep, smooth, or jagged. It may be near the surface of the skin, or deeper. A deep cut can affect tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, or bone.

A puncture is a wound made by a pointed object such as a nail, knife, or sharp tooth.

Symptoms

 

Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding
  • Problems with function or feeling below the wound site
  • Pain

Infection may occur with some cuts and puncture wounds. The following are more likely to become infected:

  • Bites
  • Punctures
  • Crushing injuries
  • Dirty wounds
  • Wounds on the feet
  • Wounds that are not promptly treated

 

First Aid

 

If the wound is bleeding severely, call your local emergency number such as 911.

Minor cuts and puncture wounds can be treated at home. Take the following steps.

FOR MINOR CUTS

  • Wash your hands with soap or antibacterial cleanser to prevent infection.
  • Then, wash the cut thoroughly with mild soap and water.
  • Use direct pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • Apply antibacterial ointment and a clean bandage that will not stick to the wound.

FOR MINOR PUNCTURES

  • Wash your hands with soap or antibacterial cleanser to prevent infection.
  • Rinse the puncture for 5 minutes under running water. Then wash with soap.
  • Look (but do not poke around) for objects inside the wound. If found, don't remove it. Go to your emergency or urgent care center.
  • If you can't see anything inside the wound, but a piece of the object that caused the injury is missing, also seek medical attention.
  • Apply antibacterial ointment and a clean bandage that will not stick to the wound.

Scarring is a potential complication of any wound. Prompt first aid and the prevention of infection reduce the risk of scarring.

 

Do Not

 

  • Do NOT assume that a minor wound is clean because you can't see dirt or debris inside. Always wash it.
  • Do NOT breathe on an open wound.
  • Do NOT try to clean a major wound, especially after the bleeding is under control.
  • Do NOT remove a long or deeply stuck object. Seek medical attention.
  • Do NOT push or pick debris from a wound. Seek medical attention.
  • Do NOT push body parts back in. Cover them with clean material until medical help arrives.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call 911 or your local emergency number if:

  • The bleeding is severe or cannot be stopped (for example, after 10 minutes of pressure).
  • The person cannot feel the injured area, or it doesn't work right.
  • The person is seriously injured.

Call your health care provider immediately if:

  • The wound is large or deep, even if the bleeding is not severe.
  • The wound is more than a quarter inch (.64 centimeter) deep, on the face, or reaching the bone. Stitches may be needed.
  • The person has been bitten by a human or animal.
  • A cut or puncture is caused by a fishhook or rusty object.
  • You step on a nail or other similar object.
  • An object or debris is stuck. Do not remove it yourself.
  • The wound shows signs of infection such as warmth and redness in the area, a painful or throbbing sensation, fever, swelling, or pus-like drainage.
  • You have not had a tetanus shot within the last 10 years.
  • If you have a serious wound, your provider may order blood tests to check for bacteria.

 

Prevention

 

Keep knives, scissors, sharp objects, firearms, and fragile items out of the reach of children. When children are old enough, teach them to how to use knives and scissors safely.

Make sure you and your child are up to date on vaccinations. A tetanus vaccine is generally recommended every 10 years.

 

 

References

Lammers RL. Principles of wound management. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 39.

Simon BC, Hern HG. Wound management principles. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al., eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 59.

 
  • First aid kit

    First aid kit - illustration

    The essentials of a good first aid kit include a variety of bandages, medications, and equipment to stabilize injuries until proper medical attention can be administered.

    First aid kit

    illustration

  • Laceration versus puncture wound

    Laceration versus puncture wound - illustration

    A laceration is a wound that is produced by the tearing of soft body tissue. This type of wound is often irregular and jagged. A laceration wound is often contaminated with bacteria and debris from whatever object caused the cut. A puncture wound is usually caused by a sharp pointy object such as a nail, animal teeth, or a tack. This type of wound usually does not bleed excessively and can appear to close up. Puncture wounds are also prone to infection and should be treated appropriately.

    Laceration versus puncture wound

    illustration

  • Stitches

    Stitches - illustration

    Stitches are primarily used if the cut is more that a quarter inch deep, is on the face, or reaches bone. Stitches help hold the wound together so it can heal properly. Stitches are removed between 3 to 14 days after they are put depending upon which area of the body was injured. Stitches on the face can be removed within 3 to 5 days but areas of high stress such as hands, elbows, and knees must stay in 10 to 14 days.

    Stitches

    illustration

  • Snake bite

    Snake bite - illustration

    Venomous snake bites are medical emergencies and require immediate attention. The bite of a snake can cause severe local tissue damage and often requires follow-up care. The right anti-venom can save a person's life. Even though most snakes are not poisonous, avoid picking up or playing with any snake unless you have been properly trained.

    Snake bite

    illustration

  • Minor cut - first aid

    Minor cut - first aid

    Presentation

  • Sewing a wound closed, part 1

    Sewing a wound closed, part 1

    Presentation

    • First aid kit

      First aid kit - illustration

      The essentials of a good first aid kit include a variety of bandages, medications, and equipment to stabilize injuries until proper medical attention can be administered.

      First aid kit

      illustration

    • Laceration versus puncture wound

      Laceration versus puncture wound - illustration

      A laceration is a wound that is produced by the tearing of soft body tissue. This type of wound is often irregular and jagged. A laceration wound is often contaminated with bacteria and debris from whatever object caused the cut. A puncture wound is usually caused by a sharp pointy object such as a nail, animal teeth, or a tack. This type of wound usually does not bleed excessively and can appear to close up. Puncture wounds are also prone to infection and should be treated appropriately.

      Laceration versus puncture wound

      illustration

    • Stitches

      Stitches - illustration

      Stitches are primarily used if the cut is more that a quarter inch deep, is on the face, or reaches bone. Stitches help hold the wound together so it can heal properly. Stitches are removed between 3 to 14 days after they are put depending upon which area of the body was injured. Stitches on the face can be removed within 3 to 5 days but areas of high stress such as hands, elbows, and knees must stay in 10 to 14 days.

      Stitches

      illustration

    • Snake bite

      Snake bite - illustration

      Venomous snake bites are medical emergencies and require immediate attention. The bite of a snake can cause severe local tissue damage and often requires follow-up care. The right anti-venom can save a person's life. Even though most snakes are not poisonous, avoid picking up or playing with any snake unless you have been properly trained.

      Snake bite

      illustration

    • Minor cut - first aid

      Presentation

    • Sewing a wound closed, part 1

      Presentation

    A Closer Look

     

    Self Care

     

    Tests for Cuts and puncture wounds

     

       

      Review Date: 1/12/2015

      Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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