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Cuts & Grazes

Most cuts and grazes are minor and can be easily treated at home.

Stopping the bleeding, cleaning the wound thoroughly and covering it with a plaster or dressing is usually all that's needed.

Minor wounds should start to heal within a few days.

How to treat cuts and grazes

Stop the bleeding

Stop any bleeding before applying a dressing to the wound.  Apply pressure to the area using a clean and dry absorbent material - such as a bandage, towel or handkerchief - for several minutes.

If the cut is to your hand or arm, raise it above your head to help reduce the flow of blood.

If the injury is to a lower limb, lie down and raise the affected area about the level of your heart.

Clean the wound and apply a dressing

When the would has stopped bleeding, clean it and cover it with a dressing to help stop it becoming infected.

To do this:

  • wash and dry your hands thoroughly
  • clean the wound under drinking - quality running tap water - avoid using antiseptic as it may damage the skin and slow healing
  • pat the area dry with a clean towel
  • apply a sterile adhesive dressing, such as a plaster

Keep the dressing clean by changing it as often as necessary.  Use waterproof dressings to keep the wound dry while bathing and showering.

You can remove the dressing after a few days, once the wound has closed itself.

Take painkillers if needed

If the wound is painful for the first few days, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

When to get medical help

Call NHS 111 Wales if available in your area or 0845 46 47,  a minor injury unit or GP surgery if there's risk your wound could become infected, or you think it's already infected.

A wound is at risk of infection if:

  • it's been contaminated with dirt, pus or other bodily fluids
  • there was something in the wound before it was cleaned, such as gravel or a shard of grass
  • it has a jagged edge
  • it's longer than 5cm (2 inches)
  • it was caused by an animal or human bite

Signs a wound has been infected include:

  • swelling, rednes and increasing pain in the affacted area
  • pus forming in or around the wound
  • feeling generally unwell
  • a high temeperature (fever) of 38C or above
  • swollen glands under your chin or in your neck, armpits or groin

An infected wound can usually be successfully treated with a short course of antibiotics.

When to go to A & E

Go to your nearest accident & emegency department as soon as possible if:

  • you can't stop the bleeding
  • you're bleeding from an artery - blood from an artery comes out in spurts with each beat of the heart, and is bright red and usually hard to control
  • you experience persistent or significant loss of sensation near the wound or you're having trouble moving any body parts
  • you have a severe cut to your face - you may need urgent treatment to prevent scarring
  • you have a cut on the palm of your hand and it looks infected - these types of infection can spread quickly
  • there's a possibility a foreign body is still inside the wound
  • the wound is very large or the injury has caused a lot of tissue damage

In A & E, your wound will be examined to determine whether there's a risk of infection.  You may need an injection to prevent tetanus (a bacterial infection), and your wound may be closed with stitches, strips or special glue before a dressing is applied.

If there's a risk of infection, the wound won't usually be closed because this may trap any infection inside.  Instead, it will be packed with a non-sticky dressing before being covered with a protective dressing until it's safe to close.