/publications/issue/2003/2003-07/2003-07-7311

Scrapes, Cuts, and Bruises

Author: Lauren S. Schlesselman, PharmD

A look through any family photo album will reveal at least 1 picture of a child with a bandaged or scraped knee. Cuts, scrapes, and bruises are among the most common injuries, and no family member is safe from minor accidents. Fortunately, these injuries usually can be treated at home without a doctor visit. Pharmacists need to be able to advise patients on how to treat these injuries if medical attention is not necessary, as well as to counsel patients as to when they should seek medical attention.

Defining Scrapes, Cuts, and Bruises
Scrapes (or abrasions) are wounds in which layers of skin are scraped or torn. The most common sites for scrapes are the hands, elbows, and knees. These injuries often are the result of a fall. Although the scrapes may ooze blood, bleeding does not always occur. Objects penetrating the skin cause cuts (or lacerations). Depending on the depth, cuts often will bleed. Bruises are the result of hard contact with a person or an object. The impact causes an injury to the tissue beneath the skin, and blood from the injury settles near the skin. Bruises usually start out looking red, then within a few hours turn blue or purple, and finally appear yellow as they fade.

Treating Cuts and Scrapes
Minor scrapes and cuts are easily treated at home with basic wound-care or first-aid supplies. Because cuts can happen at any time, every home should have tweezers, gauze pads, bandages, and antibiotic ointment. Here are some steps that pharmacists should tell patients to follow in treating cuts at home:

The following are steps to follow in the case of a scrape:

Treating Bruises
Although bruises can be painful, treatment is limited. The best care for bruises involves rest and ice. Ice stops blood flow to the injury site, thus limiting the size of the bruise. Rest allows the site to heal. Here are some further guidelines for patients for treating bruises at home:

Here are some signs that bruises need medical attention: