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Caring for Cuts: Common ER Patient Questions

Caring for cuts is a common ER patient question.  From helping stitches heal to tetanus troubles, follow the advice below to ensure a quick cut recovery.

What should I use to cleanse a cut?

Antiseptic solutions can be used to irrigate contaminated wounds. But studies have shown that holding a wound under running tap water does just as well.

Should cuts be covered?

Generally it’s a good idea.  Bandages protect wounds and help prevent infection. They also keep wounds moist promoting quick healing.   However, if your wound has been repaired with surgical glue they should generally be left uncovered because the layer of glue is its own bandage.

When is it too late for stitches?

Most clean wounds will heal well if sutured within 18 hours. Wounds of the scalp and face can be sutured later (within 24 hours) because they have a rich blood supply. It’s a good idea to have your wound evaluated without delay.

Is surgical glue as good as stitches for lacerations?

Surgical glue can be an option for repairing minor skin lacerations that do not gape and have straight edges. It is not recommended for jagged wounds, or in areas of tension (over hands, joints, etc). The glue should be kept as dry as possible to prevent it from peeling off too soon.

Should I keep my stitches dry?

Studies have shown that it’s OK to get your stitches wet. Be sure to dry them off as soon as possible though. It’s not recommended to keep a wound immersed (e.g., swimming) for a prolonged time.

Should I take an antibiotic for my cut or wound?

Antibiotics can be prescribed for bite wounds, deep puncture wounds, or wounds of the palms and fingers. But they are not needed for simple clean wounds. If a minor wound infection develops it can usually be treated with topical antibiotics. More serious infections may require antibiotics by mouth or by injection.

Do I need a tetanus shot?

If you haven’t had a tetanus booster in the last ten years then get one right away. Sometimes tetanus shots are given at five years for a dirty wound that is contaminated.

How do I know if my cut is infected?

Signs of an infected cut include redness, swelling, fever, pain, and drainage. If you develop any of these symptoms, have a doctor examine the cut to determine a course of treatment.