It happens so quickly. You’re innocently chopping up vegetables for dinner when you find yourself on the receiving end of a cut — ouch! “Cuts are very common,” says Steven Rittenberg, M.D., who specializes in Internal Medicine at the Swedish Issaquah Primary Care Clinic. “However, there are some practical ways to prevent them, and some specific steps for treating them that can save you a trip to the doctor.”
Avoiding The “Ouch!”
Preventing cuts in the home is largely common sense, but life gets busy and we get careless, so here are a few reminders:
- Keep knives sharp. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, a sharp knife slides more easily through an item avoiding a slip that may cut something you didn’t intend to cut, like your finger.
- Pay attention. Resist the temptation to become distracted while using a knife.
- Cut away from, not toward, yourself.
- Don’t hold food that you are cutting; use a cutting board.
- Don’t leave knives in dangerous places — loose in a drawer, in the sink, on the counter or facing up in the dishwasher — especially if you have children.
- When handing someone a knife or sharp scissors, hold the flat part of the knife blade or closed blades of the scissors so they can grasp the handle.
- Don’t pick up broken glass; sweep or vacuum it up thoroughly.
Treating It Right
When a cut does occur, the proper treatment will help to avoid infection or other complications:
- In an emergency, call 911; plus, research in advance where your nearest emergency room is.
- Dealing with bleeding. If a cut does not stop bleeding on its own, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for 20 to 30 minutes and elevate the wound if possible. “Don't keep checking to see if the bleeding has stopped, as this may damage or dislodge the clot that is forming and cause bleeding to resume,” advises Dr. Rittenberg. “If you cannot get a wound to stop bleeding, you might need stitches. Get medical attention within 24 hours.”
- Clean. Clean the wound with soap and water, hydrogen peroxide or iodine. Apply a triple antibiotic ointment two to three times a day to reduce the risk of infection or tetanus.
- Cover. A bandage that is changed daily or when it becomes wet or dirty will help keep the cut clean and bacteria free. Later, when the threat of infection is unlikely, exposing the cut to air will quicken healing.
- Watch for infection. If a cut isn’t healing or there is drainage, redness, warmth, swelling or increasing pain, see your doctor. “We also recommend getting a tetanus shot every 5-10 years depending on the circumstances,” says Dr. Rittenberg. “If your last shot was more than five years ago, your doctor may recommend a booster. If so, get it as soon as possible after the injury.”
Accidents happen, but exercising caution when dealing with knives and other sharp objects and carefully treating wounds when they occur will go a long way towards keeping you and your family safe and healthy.