A laceration is an irregular cut in the skin from a sharp object. Treatment for a laceration depends on how deep it is.
For a demonstration on handling minor cuts, watch the Wound Dressing Video.
Time Required: No more than 20 minutes initially, approximately 10 days to heal.
Stay Safe. If you are not the victim, practice universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if available.
Control bleeding before anything else. Putting pressure directly on the laceration while holding it above the level of the heart for 15 minutes should be enough to stop bleeding. If not, try using pressure points. Tourniquets should be avoided unless medical care will be delayed for several hours.
- If bleeding will not stop, call 911.
- Once bleeding has stopped, wash the laceration with warm water and mild soap (see illustration). If bleeding starts again, repeat step two.
- Determine if the laceration needs stitches. If victim needs stitches, proceed to the emergency department.
- For smaller lacerations that do not require stitches, use antiseptic ointment () and close with butterfly closures ().
- Cover the laceration with sterile gauze () and tape in place or wrap with roller gauze ().
- Watch for infection and change the dressing (bandages) daily. Clean the laceration each time you change the dressing. If the laceration begins to swell or drain pus - or if redness begins to radiate or streak away from the laceration - contact a doctor.
- Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
- If the laceration is contaminated, the victim should consult a doctor as soon as possible for a tetanus vaccination or booster shot. Wounds of the feet, those that cannot be cleaned right away, and wounds made by animals all have a high risk of contamination.
- Lacerations caused by animal bites may also cause rabies. Always consult a doctor for wounds caused by animal bites.