How to Treat a Cut on Your Finger

1
First Aid 101

Accidents happen and it's not uncommon to cut yourself with a knife in the kitchen or while working on a project around the house. This is First Aid 101 and there are four easy steps you need to follow: stop the bleeding, clean the wound, apply an antibiotic, and bandage it. 

Sounds easy enough, right? Before you run off to the bathroom to fix yourself up, let's take a quick look at a few tips that will help along the way.

Of course, if the cut is deep enough, you may need to see a doctor and stitches may be required. If this is the case, get the wound under control and head to an urgent care clinic or the emergency room. Only use the ER for emergencies ​or if urgent care is closed and you cannot wait.

2
Stop the Bleeding

Bleeding finger
Stop heavy bleeding (this isn't heavy). Image (c) Melanie Martinez

An accidental cut can be minor or severe. The first step with either is to try to stop the bleeding. This will give you a clearer view of how deep the cut is.

  • Minor cuts and scrapes that are oozing a little blood usually don't require any bleeding control. They typically stop bleeding on their own, though you can apply pressure to help this. Your next step is to clean the wound.
  • If the bleeding is heavy, bright red, or spurting, then follow the steps to control bleeding. Applying pressure with clean gauze or a towel and elevating the wound should be your priorities.
  • If the finger is amputated, put pressure on it to control bleeding and follow the steps for treating an amputation. The most important part is to get medical help right away and that may require a 911 call.

If you are not the injured person, it's best to use protective gloves if they're available. Also, employing universal precautions like washing your hands before touching the wound can prevent infection and the spread of contagious diseases.

When Do You Need Stitches?

If the cut goes through the skin and leaves a gaping wound, you will probably need stitches. This is particularly true if you can see fat or muscle. The Mayo Clinic recommends that in order to minimize scars and infection risk, the wound should be closed within a few hours.

3
Clean the Wound

Wash cut finger
Image (c) Melanie Martinez

The next step is to clean the wound. This will help prevent infection and let you really see how deep the cut is.

  1. Rinse the cut under clear running water. 
  2. Wash around the wound with soap. Antibacterial soap is not necessary, but try to keep soap out of the wound because it may irritate it. Also, if you can, avoid soap products with heavy perfumes as they might sting. 
  3. If there is any dirt or other debris in the wound, clean a pair of tweezers with alcohol and use it to gently remove any particles you can see. If you can't get all of it, you might need a doctor to do this.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that you should not use hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or any cleanser that contains iodine. These products may only irritate the injury more.

4
Use an Antibiotic Ointment

Put ointment on a tongue depressor
Image (c) Melanie Martinez

Antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin or Polysporin, is not necessary for the vast majority of minor cuts. However, if you'll be out in the dirt and grime, it may not be a bad idea. The ointment will not help the wound will not heal faster, but can prevent infection.

Never squeeze ointment directly onto the cut because you don't want to contaminate the container. Instead, put the ointment on a Q-tip or another clean, disposable surface like a tongue dispenser or small piece of clean gauze.

5
Apply a Bandage

Apply adhesive bandage
Image (c) Melanie Martinez

Adhesive bandages protect the cut from contamination. They are not necessary for many minor cuts and scrapes unless there's a potential that it can get dirty or irritated.

When applying an adhesive bandage, never touch the pad. Peel off one side of the protective covering and attach it to the finger. Wrap the bandage around the finger and remove the other covering as you go.

6
Watch for Infection

After dressing a minor cut, watch for infection. Signs of infection include increased temperature or pain, redness, swelling, and oozing. If you notice any of these or anything else that seems abnormal, see your doctor or go to an urgent care clinic as soon as possible.

Keep the wound clean and replace the bandage at least once a day or whenever it gets dirty.

Do You Need a Tetanus Shot?

If the wound is particularly deep and you have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years, it's a good idea to get one. See your doctor as soon as possible to get a booster.

Source:

Fair Health. Emergency Care and Urgent Care. 2017.

Mayo Clinic Staff. Cuts and Scrapes: First Aid. 2016.

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