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Cuts and grazes are a common type of injury and, in most cases, do not pose a threat to health.
Most cuts and grazes are minor and can be easily treated at home.
Cleaning them thoroughly and covering them with a plaster or dressing is all that is needed.
If your cut or graze is bleeding heavily or is on a particularly delicate area of your body, such as the palm of your hand, you should stop the bleeding before applying any kind of dressing.
Apply pressure to the area using a bandage or a towel. If the cut is to your hand or arm, raise it above your head. If the injury is to a lower limb, lie down and raise the affected area above the level of your heart so the bleeding slows down and stops.
To dress a cut or graze at home:
Keep the dressing clean by changing it as often as necessary and keep the wound dry by using waterproof dressings, which will allow you to take showers.
You only need to see your doctor if there is a risk of a cut or graze becoming infected or you think it already has become infected.
You are more at risk of the wound becoming infected if:
You should also contact your doctor if your skin has been bitten (either by an animal or a person), as bites are prone to infection.
Signs that a wound has become infected include:
An infected wound can usually be successfully treated with a short course of antibiotics (usually around seven days).
Some cuts and grazes can be more serious and will require you to go to accident and emergency (A&E) for treatment.
It is recommended that you go to A&E if:
At the hospital, your cut will be examined to determine whether or not there is any risk of infection. If there was glass inside your cut, you may need an X-ray to ensure it has been removed.
If there is no risk of infection, your cut will be cleaned using water or a sterile saline solution before it’s closed. This may be done using stitches, tissue adhesive or skin-closure strips.
Once your cut is closed, it may be covered with a protective dressing to ensure that your stitches, tissue adhesive or skin-closure strips stay in place.
If you have stitches or strips, you will need to return to the hospital to have them removed.
You should never try to remove stitches yourself. They should only be removed by a healthcare professional.
Tissue adhesive comes off by itself after a week or so.
To prevent tetanus (a serious bacterial infection), you may be given a tetanus booster injection. If it’s suspected that you are at risk of developing tetanus, you may be referred for specialist treatment.
If there is risk of infection, or your cut is already infected
If there is risk of infection or your cut is already infected, a healthcare professional may take a sample for analysis using a swab, before cleaning it as usual.
However, they will not yet be able to close your cut because this may trap any infection inside it, making it more likely to spread. Instead, the cut will be packed with a non-sticky dressing so that it cannot close, before it is covered with a protective dressing. You may also be given antibiotics to fight the infection.
You will need to return to hospital after three to five days to see if any infection has cleared up. If so, your cut will be closed using stitches or skin-closure strips.
If your infection has not cleared up, a change of antibiotics may be required.
If your graze is very severe and you have lost a lot of skin, you may need to have a skin graft.
Your surgeon will take some skin from another part of your body and put it over the wound. After a while, it will heal and look normal.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.