Smiling Child With Bandage on Forehead
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Scratches and Cuts on the Face

Your injury's location can affect how you bandage it. For most injuries, first you'll want to clean it with water to get rid of debris and help prevent infection. Then, stop bleeding by applying pressure with sterile gauze. Face injuries can bleed a lot. But once bleeding stops, minor face cuts can go uncovered. Or a small adhesive strip can work well. You may need stitches if the cut is jagged, deep, or longer than a half inch.

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Two Types of Blisters
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Don't Pop Blisters

Small, unbroken blisters can be left uncovered and will usually heal on their own. The exception -- if a blister is in an area where it might get rubbed, such as on the sole of the foot. In that case, protect the blister with a soft dressing to cushion the area. For a broken blister that has drained, protect it from infection by covering it with a bandage.

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Doctor Wrapping Sprained Ankle
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Wrap Sprains and Strains

A sprain means a stretched or torn ligament, while a strain involves an injury of a muscle or tendon. The signs are pain and swelling. In addition to icing the injury, wrap it with an elastic compression bandage and keep it elevated when possible. In some cases of severe sprain or strain, surgery and/or extensive physical therapy may be needed.

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Pouring Cold Water on a Minor Burn
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How to Treat Minor Burns

Seek medical help for burns if they are severe; on the face, hands, feet, or genitals; or bigger than 2 inches. For treating small minor burns at home, rinse the area under running cool water. Never use butter, grease, or powder on a burn. After rinsing, cover the burn with a thin layer of antibiotic ointment. Then bandage it. A nonstick dressing is best and you may need tape to hold the dressing in place.

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Bandage Covering an Open Cut on Face
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Close Open Cuts

If the edges of a cut are separated but will go together, use a butterfly bandage to close the wound. This type of bandage should be placed across the cut, not along its length. If the wound is long, more than one bandage may be needed. Seek professional care for cuts that are gaping, longer than a half inch, or don't stop bleeding after 15 minutes of pressure.

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Doctor Putting Stitches into Finger Wound
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Watch Surgical Wounds for Infection

After surgery, you'll need to keep the incision site clean and dry. Change the dressing according to your doctor's instructions. Each time you remove the old dressing, check the wound for signs of infection, such as increasing redness around the wound, a yellow or green discharge, or an unusual odor.

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Woman Applying Liquid Bandage
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How to Cover Scraped Knees or Elbows

Skinned knees or elbows can be awkward to cover. Larger-sized bandages or adhesive bandages with wings can hug joints and move with you. Another alternative: Use a liquid bandage. This will stop minor bleeding and protect the wound from dirt and water. Liquid bandage is shower-resistant and only needs to be applied once.

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Assortment of Fabric Bandages
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Bandaging Knuckles, Heels, and Fingers

Fingers, heels, and knuckles move so covering them can be tricky. But you'll want to keep them covered to keep dirt out. Bandages that are hourglass shaped or notched so they are shaped like an "H" can prevent folds and bunching. Or they can wrap around a fingertip for full coverage.

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Covering Scrape with a Moisture Enhancing Bandage
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Large Scrapes: Cover Them Up

Scrapes that cover a large area should be kept moist to help promote healing. Antibiotic ointment or moisture-enhancing bandages, also called occlusive bandages, can do the job. Some scrapes don't form a scab as they heal, but remain shiny and raw. If this occurs, wash the wound with clean water and apply a fresh bandage regularly. Watch for signs of infection.

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Man Removing Bandage from Hand  Wound
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Cuts on Hands or Feet: Keep Them Clean

The hands and feet are exposed to more dirt than the face, so it's best to keep cuts covered. Bandaging can also prevent shoes and socks from irritating wounds on the feet. Adhesive strips can be used for small cuts, but be sure to change the bandage if it gets wet or dirty. Seek medical help for deep cuts or puncture wounds on the hands or feet. 

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Girl Having Bandage Applied to Knee
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When to See a Doctor About an Injury

Call your doctor for deep cuts, puncture wounds, or injuries that don't stop bleeding after several minutes of pressure. Adults should call a doctor about getting a tetanus shot if they haven't had one in the past 5 years. For children, check with your doctor. And always look out for infection. Seek medical care if a wound becomes red, painful or swollen, or if it continues to drain, especially if you have a fever.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 05/27/2020 Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on May 27, 2020


1)     Fredrik Nyman
2)     Jane Shemitt/Photo Researchers Inc.
3)     Rob Melnychuk/Photodisc
4)     Dorling Kindersley
5)     Steve Pomberg/WebMD
6)     Jack Star/Photo Link
7)     PHANIE/Photo Researchers Inc
8)     Stockbyte
9)     Steve Pomberg/WebMD
10)   Image100
11)   Image100


American Academy of Family Physicians

The Children's Hospital

The Nemours Foundation

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on May 27, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.