UT University Health Services

Cuts and Scrapes

The skin is our main contact with our environment, so it's frequently subject to injuries including minor cuts and scrapes. Serious trauma to the skin can result in damage to nerves, blood vessels, tendons, bones and organs and may require immediate medical attention. This advice pertains only to injuries that can be managed safely with self-care.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending upon the nature, location, and severity of the injury. Minor cuts and scrapes usually heal within two weeks.

Self-Care

  • Clean wound thoroughly with mild soap and lots of water, especially for ground-in dirt. As it heals, wash with soap and water at lease twice daily - more often if necessary.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) antiseptic wash or antibacterial soap is acceptable for cleaning the skin around the wound.
  • Apply an OTC antibacterial ointment to the wound once or twice per day. Follow the instructions on the package.
  • Keep your wound covered with clean gauze or an adhesive bandage during waking hours. You can leave it uncovered while you sleep if it isn't oozing or painful.
  • Don't soak your wound for long periods when bathing. Don't go swimming until it's healed. Brief contact with water from the shower is okay.
  • Apply a fresh bandage when it gets wet and after you shower or bathe.

Red Flags

CALL THE UHS NURSE ADVICE LINE at (512) 475-6877 (NURS) IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

  • A wound that penetrates beneath the visible surface of the skin (especially if it has been contaminated with dirt, rust, etc.), and you haven't had a tetanus shot in the last five years or don't remember when you got your last one
  • A gaping wound where the edges of your skin don't touch (or almost touch) at the wound site or where underlying fat, tendons, bones, etc. are visible
  • Numbness at the wound site or numbness in another part of your body (like a cut near your elbow that results in numbness in your forearm or fingers)
  • Bleeding that can't be stopped with direct pressure on the wound
  • Any wound that spurts blood
  • Weakness or loss of function in the area of the wound (like inability to extend your fingers after a cut on your hand or wrist)
  • A wound on your face or other area where optimal healing is desired for cosmetic reasons
  • Signs of infection such as a fever of 100.5 degrees F (38 degrees C) or higher; drainage; increased redness, swelling, or pain; or red streaks extending from the wound
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