Travel Advice: Cuts and Lacerations
- Press on the wound to stop bleeding.
- Clean the wound no matter how small it is, rinse it well with clean water. Cleaning will reduce the chance of infection. It is not recommended to rinse with antiseptic solutions (e.g. Dettol, TCP) as they may damage skin tissue and delay healing.
- After cleaning, cover the wound with a sterile, non-sticky dressing.
Do I need to see a nurse or doctor?
Many people deal with minor cuts by themselves. The following gives a guide as to when to consider getting medical help:
- If the bleeding is heavy or does not stop quickly.
- If the wound is large, deep, or dirty, or abrasions caused by gravel. There is a risk of infection, and also a risk of permanent 'tattooing' of the skin from gravel, dirt, grit, etc, which remains in a wound.
- If you suspect the cut has damaged deeper tissues such as nerves, tendons, or joints.
- If the wound is caused by penetrating glass, metal, etc. It may need to be carefully examined, and may need an X-ray to check that there is nothing left inside.
- If the wound is gaping open it should be closed with stitches, glue, or sticky tape. Even small gaping wounds on the face are best dealt with by a doctor to keep scarring to a minimum.
You should have a tetanus booster if you are not up to date with your immunisations. Antibiotics are not needed in most cases. However, a course of antibiotics may be advised in some situations where there is a high risk of a wound infection developing. These include: wounds to the feet (especially if you have poor circulation to the feet), large wounds inside the mouth, contaminated wounds (with soil, manure, or faeces), deep puncture wounds, or if your resistance to infection is low (e.g. if you are on chemotherapy; have no working spleen; have diabetes; have alcohol dependence; have HIV/AIDS, etc).
As the cut heals
The most common complication after a cut is an infection of the wound. See a doctor or nurse if the skin surrounding a wound becomes more tender, painful, swollen, red, or inflamed over the next few days. In some cases, as the wound heals, the colour in the skin darkens around the scar ('hyperpigmentation'). This may be prevented if you use high factor sun screen regularly for 6-12 months on healing wounds that are exposed to sunshine.