Many of us feel that we know all we need to know about first aid. After all, if an injury is too severe, we’ll just head to the doctor, right? Unfortunately, being unaware of the first aid basics when it comes to wounds can lead to complications down the road, including possible infections. Here are some of the best first aid tips for wounds, cuts and scrapes.
Always Have A First Aid Kit Handy
Assemble a first aid kit with all the necessary tools and products to best treat a wound, scrape, burn or other small accident. Keep the kit where it’s easy to access so you can grab it when someone gets hurt. It’s a good idea to have one in your home, your office and your car.
[Related – How To Make Your Own Travel First Aid Kits]
Check Expiration Dates Periodically
Inspect everything in your first aid kit once a year. Make sure that everything is clean and ensure that all the products have not passed their expiration date.
Wash Your Hands
One of the most overlooked steps in first aid care is washing your hands. This is an important step in making sure that you don’t spread bacteria onto the cut as you wash and bandage it. As a backup, put some antibacterial hand gel in your first aid kit so you can still sanitize your hands if soap and water aren’t readily available.
Clean The Cut
With any wound or cut, your priority should be to minimize the chances of an infection. That means your first order of business should be cleaning the wound. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to use any hydrogen peroxide or iodine-containing cleansers. Simply use clean, clear water to rinse the site. If the wound is a puncture rather than just a minor cut or scrape, let the water run over the site for at least 5 minutes. Avoid using soap since it can irritate the cut. You may need to use tweezers to remove any particles of dirt. Just be sure to clean your tweezers with alcohol first. If there are lots of particles or large pieces of debris (such as broken glass) in the wound, see a doctor to have them removed.
Get Bleeding Under Control
Grab a clean cloth or a bandage and gently dab the scrape until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding is a little more severe, apply gentle pressure and change out bandages if they soak through. Don’t make the mistake of constantly lifting the cloth to check if the bleeding has stopped. Instead, allow plenty of time for a clot to form before removing the bandage. If the bleeding won’t stop or if blood is spurting, get medical assistance immediately.
Protect Against Bacteria
Once the wound is clean and the bleeding has stopped, you can start dressing the wound. The first thing to do is to apply an antibiotic ointment or cream to the cut in order to protect against infection. As an added bonus, these creams and ointments keep the wound from drying out. Watch for any allergic reactions if it’s an antibiotic cream or ointment you’ve never used before.
Apply A Bandage
Select an appropriate bandage for the wound. While smaller cuts and scrapes can be covered with an adhesive bandage, you may need a little gauze and tape for larger wounds. Make sure that the bandage isn’t too tight and changed whenever it gets dirty or wet and at least once per day.
Know When To Get Stitches
Most people aren’t medically trained to handle stitches on their own, but it’s a great first aid skill to know when stitches are necessary. The depth of the wound is one of the clearest indicators of a need for stitches. Any cut at least 1/4-inch deep needs stitches (you can often see the yellowish fatty tissue if the wound is this deep). In addition, a wound that isn’t easily closed has jagged edges or is located in an area where the skin is often moved probably needs stitches as well. Seek medical attention if the cut has any of these characteristics.
Watch For Infections
Caring for your wound doesn’t stop after the bandage is on. After that, you’ll need to continue keeping an eye on the cut until it’s completely healed. The most important thing to watch for is any sign of infection. Look for redness, swelling, warmth or red streaks near the site of the wound. In addition, excessive tenderness or drainage from the cut can also be a sign of infection (especially if pus is oozing from the wound). See a doctor right away if your wound looks like it may be infected.
First aid for a wound, cut or scrape can be quick and easy if you have the right skills and tools available. Consider writing or printing out these tips to keep in your first aid kit as a reminder for the next time you’re treating a wound.