Act Fast and Prevent Infection: How to Clean a Cut Hand

cut hand

Did you know that the place you’re most at risk of sustaining an injury is right in your own home?

In fact, people commonly sustain injuries while cooking, cleaning, doing DIY or working in the garden. And, if you’re using sharp objects, you’re putting yourself at risk for a cut hand.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about what you should do if you end up cutting your hand, as well as how to clean it.

We’ll also explore when it’s time to go to an emergency room, and when it’s time to call 911–or if you can treat the injury at home.

When in doubt, however, you should always go see a doctor to check out the wound. Infections can crop up very quickly, causing more trouble than you might think. And cuts that are not properly cared for can lead to scars at best, and limb or finger-threatening injuries at best.

Read on for more information for first aid on your cut hand.

What Not to Do For a Cut Hand

There are lots of myths floating around about what to do if you cut or burn your skin and how to clean it. Some of these may be furthered by the Internet, others are old wives’ tales that have somehow stuck with people–and some may seem like common sense. But, in reality, some of these tips are counterproductive to healing.

Let’s explore what not to do if you cut your hand below.

1. Put Butter on Your Wound

This is a myth that most people associate with burns. But if your burn is bad enough, there may also be bloody or exposed skin, and you may be tempted to rub butter in it.

Butter can carry all sorts of bacteria on it, especially if it’s been open in your fridge for a while. It can also trap heat, causing a burn to get worse instead of better.

2. Rub or Pour Alcohol in the Wound

There is a pervasive myth that rubbing alcohol on a wound is good for it. People believe that it disinfects the wound and helps prevent infection from settling in, but this isn’t the case.

Alcohol actually won’t do anything to help clean the wound, and it will irritate your skin. It will also sting and be relatively painful if you rub it in the wound. Instead, you’ll want to use antiseptic.

3. Leave a Wound Uncovered

If you have a cut on your hand, you may be tempted to leave the bandage off in order to “give the wound air.” This actually goes against what you should be doing, which is covering the wound up.

“Giving the wound air” makes the wound dry, and it causes some of the cells to die off. Your wound heals more quickly when it is covered, as it provides a “safe space” for cells to regrow.

4. Assume a Scab Means Your Wound is Starting to Heal

Did you cut your hand and decide that it’s fine now because it’s started to scab over? In some cases, a doctor will actually remove a scab, because the scab itself is trapping in infection and damaged tissue, thus delaying the wound’s ability to heal.

If your wound still looks bad after it’s scabbed up, you’ll want to visit a doctor to make sure further damage hasn’t been done.

5. Pick Off Dirt from the Wound

Doing this can cause even further infection from the dirt on your hands. Clean a minor wound with an antiseptic agent, or seek help at your local urgent care or emergency room.

6. Skip Cleaning a Minor Wound

Can’t see any dirt in the wound? Don’t assume that means it’s clean. You should still pour antiseptic over the wound, or swab a cotton ball or gauze in it and then rub it on the wound.

7. Try to Remove an Object That’s Stuck in the Wound

It’s possible to accidentally lodge something your hand, especially if you’re working with sharp objects. And, if you fall and have an accident outside, you can also have debris stuck in the wound you’ve just acquired.

Don’t attempt to remove anything that’s in a wound in your hand. This can cause further infection or further damage. Instead, you should go to the nearest emergency room for further assessment. Your doctor will be able to treat the wound and determine if the object lodged in the wound can cause further infection.

8. Breathe On the Wound

Your breath can actually make the wound more susceptible to infection. Instead, make sure your nose and mouth are away from the wound.

9. Try to Clean a Large Wound

If the wound is small, you’ll be able to clean it easily with antiseptic. But if the wound is major, you’ll need to hold off on cleaning it. Instead, cover the area with something clean, preferably an unused gauze, and wait until either help arrives or you’re at the emergency room.

What to Do When You Cut Your Hand and How to Clean It

Now that you know what not to do if you cut your hand, let’s go over what you should do in order to aid in the healing process.

1. Examine the Area

This is obviously hard to do if you’ve just cut yourself. You might be freaking out about the pain or the sheer amount of blood. However, assessing the injury is important in deciding what to do next.

If the wound is small, you can proceed to self-care. If it is large or you believe a finger or your hand could fall off as a result, you should call 911 immediately.

2. Put Pressure on a Wound That’s Bleeding

If your wound is bleeding, the first thing you should do is apply pressure. The best way to do this is with something clean. An unused gauze is preferable, but if you’re out and about, you can use a piece of cloth or clothing. Make sure it is as clean as possible to prevent infection.

Raise your hand above your heart in order to help stop the bleeding as well. Keep it elevated for the entire 10 minutes, if necessary.

3. Go to the Doctor If Your Wound Has Not Stopped Bleeding in 10 Minutes

If you cannot control the bleeding within 10 minutes, you should seek treatment. If the bleeding is extensive, call 911. If the bleeding is not extensive, but still will not stop after 10 minutes, you can go to the emergency room on your own if you feel comfortable.

If you do not feel comfortable driving, call an ambulance.

What to Do If Your Wound is From an Animal

If you were bitten by an animal, especially one you’re not familiar with, it is important that you seek medical attention. Your doctor may need to give you stitches if the wound is bad enough, or may need to give you a shot to prevent contracting an illness through the cut.

Self-Care for Minor Wounds

Is your wound minor? Were you able to stop the bleeding in 10 minutes or less? If so, you can care for the wound at home.

Here’s what you should do:

1. Clean the Wound

We’ve already discussed this step previously, but it bears repeating.

Wash your hands before touching the wound. Wear gloves if possible.

Once the bleeding has stopped, clean the wound with an antiseptic agent. Some doctors disagree with this and suggest instead that you use water or run the wound under the tap. The NHS (British National Health Service) suggests you both run water over the wound and wipe it off with an alcohol-free wipe.

2. Dress the Wound

Dress the wound appropriately after you’ve cleaned it. This means that you should either use a Band-Aid or gauze and tape. Change the dressing at least once a day to keep it sterile.

Make sure the bandage itself does not stick to the wound. If the wound bleeds through the dressing, apply pressure again and add another dressing on top.

3. Monitor Your Wound

Changing the dressing regularly also has another side effect: it helps you see how the wound is healing. If the wound isn’t healing after a few days, you should visit your doctor to have the wound examined.

If the wound turns red or black or starts to bleed again, especially if you have trouble controlling it, you should see a doctor.

Lastly, if you develop pus in your wound that doesn’t go away after a day or so, you should see a doctor. You should also monitor your wound for redness, irritation, skin that feels very itchy or if the wound causes you pain.

An infection can spread quickly and get into your bloodstream. If your wound looks a little bit weird, it is important that your doctor sees it so that they can provide the necessary antibiotics.

Will I Need Stitches?

If your wound is deep, it is possible you may need stitches. Or, your doctor may offer another alternative like skin glue. This is to place the skin together to encourage it to fuse and heal, thus healing the wound underneath it.

Your doctor will be able to best determine if stitches are necessary.

What to Do If You Cut Your Finger Off

Slicing off a finger is pretty traumatic, but it does happen. We recommend that you know what to do should you or a loved one accidentally slice your finger so that it is fully or partially amputated.

In this case, do not attempt to clean it, but follow these instructions.

1. Call 911

This may be obvious, but at the moment, it can be difficult to think clearly. If you are not the individual who has had their finger fully or partially amputated, call the paramedics immediately as you begin first aid.

We’ll go over what you should do, but they may also be able to assist you in your specific situation over the phone.

2. Control the Bleeding

Keeping the bleeding under control is your first priority in this situation. Too much blood loss can compromise your ability to have your digit reattached. Apply pressure, put your hand above your head and then apply a tourniquet if you can. Wrap it around your finger to curb the blood loss as much as possible.

3. Find the Finger or Thumb

If you or the person you’re with has cut their finger clean off, you’ll need to bring it in with you. Finding it is the first step, and according to doctors, the most important.

4. Wrap the Finger

Wrap the finger or thumb gauze or a damp rag. Doctors recommend that you place this in a plastic bag. They also recommend that you get another plastic bag and fill it with ice or an ice pack. Place the plastic bag with the finger in it in that bag.

5. Get to the Emergency Room

Getting to the emergency room as quickly as possible is paramount for reattaching a lost finger. Doctors at the University of Utah say that they have about an eight-hour window to reattach the digit.

The likelihood that they can reattach the finger or thumb depends on a variety of factors, but it is estimated that you have about a 50/50 chance of reattachment.

Nursing a Cut Hand

Most people experience a cut hand at least once in their lives. And if you have children, knowing what to do to prevent an infection is important, as they’ll always find themselves sustaining injuries.

In some rare circumstances, a cut hand may lead to surgery in order to reconstruct your hand or to help it heal. Your doctor will know best how to treat a major wound.

Want more information on all things hand-related? Head over to our blog.

Or, click here to schedule an appointment if you have a hand issue that doesn’t need immediate care.

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