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First Aid & Emergencies

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Care for a Skin Wound - Topic Overview

Skin wounds, including animal or human bites, need thorough cleaning to reduce the risk of infection and scarring and to promote healing.

You may be able to do this yourself for minor wounds. You'll have to stop any bleeding, clean the wound, and perhaps bandage the wound.

Stop the bleeding

Before you clean the wound, try to stop the bleeding.

  • Put on medical gloves, if available, before applying direct pressure to the wound. If gloves aren't available, put something else between your hands and the wound. You can use many layers of clean cloth, plastic bags, or the cleanest material available. Use your bare hands to apply direct pressure only as a last resort.
  • Hold direct pressure on the wound, if possible, and elevate the injured area.
  • Remove or cut clothing from around the wound. Remove any jewelry from the general area of the wound so if the area swells, the jewelry will not affect blood flow.
  • Apply steady, direct pressure for a full 15 minutes. Use a clock-15 minutes can seem like a long time. Resist the urge to peek after a few minutes to see whether bleeding has stopped. If blood soaks through the cloth, apply another one without lifting the first. If there is an object in the wound, apply pressure around the object, not directly over it.
  • If moderate to severe bleeding has not slowed or stopped, continue direct pressure while getting help. Do not use a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Do all you can to keep the wound clean and avoid further injury to the area.
  • Mild bleeding usually stops on its own or slows to an ooze or trickle after 15 minutes of pressure. It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes.
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