Cuts and Knife Wounds

Call ambulance if

  • Person is shot with a gun.
  • Penetrating chest injury
  • Person cannot breathe.
  • You cannot stop bleeding.
  • Person is no longer alert.


  • Protect yourself. Do not get cut or shot with a gun while trying to help, and cover your hands with gloves or plastic bags before touching blood.
  • Stop all bleeding. Apply pressure to wound for at least 10 minutes and elevate injured area.
    • If you can not get to a doctor: For very bad bleeding, put Cayenne pepper powder (Capsicum spp.) in the wound before applying pressure. It hurts, but helps blood vessels to close, helps prevent shock, helps postpone infection.
  • Do not remove an impaled object; stabilize impaled object in place and seek medical care.
  • For nosebleed, do not tilt head backwards, pinch nose until bleeding stops.
  • For eye injury, cover eye and seek care.


  • Keep wound clean. Wash area gently with soap and water without scrubbing as the wound heals.
  • When not washing, keep wound area dry. You can put honey on wound to encourage healing. Cover with dry sterile gauze pad or clean cloth.
  • Change dressing at least daily or whenever dressing becomes wet or dirty.
  • Do not pick at protective scab.
  • Tetanus booster shot is recommended if you have not had one in 10 years.

See doctor if:

  • Bitten by animal (or person).
  • Cut on chest, back, abdomen, face, or hands, unless wound is very small.
  • Wound cannot be fully cleaned of debris.
  • Any deep puncture wounds.
  • Any numbness, weakness, tingling sensation or cannot move beyond the wound.
  • Any wound requiring stitches:
    • Cannot be closed.
    • Deep wound (see white fatty layer).
    • Jagged or bruised edges; flaps of skin.
    • Wound is in area (like on a joint) where edges may be pulled apart.
  • Signs of infection develop (these signs do not occur until at least a day after the injury):
    • Increased redness, pain, swelling or warmth.
    • Red streaking of surrounding skin.
    • Pus draining from area.
    • Tender lumps or swelling in armpit, groin, or neck.
    • Foul odor from area.
    • Generalized chills or fever over 37.5C.
    • Not healing well within 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If you are immunocompromised, have a chronic illness such as diabetes, or have prosthetic heart valves or orthopedic prostheses, ask your doctor about antibiotics to prevent infection.
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