A cut is an injury to the skin. Cuts may be the result of accidentally splitting or tearing the skin.
Some of the most common causes are:
- Blunt force contact with a hard object
- Contact with a piercing or slicing object
Some people are at a much greater risk of injuring themselves. For example, children at play and seniors whose skin is more fragile as a result of certain diseases or medications.
Signs and symptoms
The most common symptoms are pain around the wound and bleeding. Healing in some may be slower and may also require special care. For example, diabetics, those who take medications that make the skin more fragile (ex: cortisone derivatives) or that slow coagulation (ex: warfarin) as well as those with a weakened immune system (ex: weakened by cancer) should talk to their doctor about special precautions that may be required. See your doctor if:
- The cut is deep
- The wound is jagged or the edges of the cut gape open
- The wound is on the face
- The wound has been in contact with a human or animal's mouth
- Bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
- Moving the affected area is very painful
- The cut drains a thick, creamy, greyish fluid
- The area around the cut becomes swollen and red
- You start to run a fever
The first step is to properly wash the cut with running water (or better yet, with a 0.9% saline solution available at your local pharmacy) and to wash the area around the wound with soap. While cleaning the wound, remove any foreign substances by gently rubbing with sterile gauze or by using tweezers that have been disinfected with alcohol. Using a stronger antiseptic (ex: hydrogen peroxide, alcohol) to clean the wound is not recommended as it could cause irritation. The second step involves protecting the wound from dirt and accelerating the healing process. Covering the injury with a bandage that keeps the area moist will help speed healing. These types of bandages are available at your pharmacy. See your pharmacist for more information. The risk of developing tetanus (a serious infectious disease caused by bacteria) after any break in the skin, is a potential complication that should not be taken lightly. Even though the wound looks clean, a booster is required if you have not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, if the date of the last booster is unknown or if immunization is incomplete (less than three doses received).