How to Treat Cuts, Abrasions and Lacerations: First Aid and Wound Care at Home

At-home First Aid – The Difference Between Cuts, Abrasions and Lacerations

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Cuts, abrasions, lacerations.

Perhaps you have heard these terms in hospital shows on T.V., without realizing the difference between the three. While the term cuts is quite common and used often in conversations around wounds and injuries, the terms abrasions and lacerations are not as often used. While abrasions and lacerations sound serious when compared to cuts, they are all just different types of wounds that an individual can incur. However, that does not mean that they can be treated the same way.

Knowing the difference between the three is important from a wound healing standpoint as assessing the wound is an important first step in every treatment routine. You cannot go about treating an injury without knowing what type of injury it is. Which brings us to the question, what exactly is the difference between skin lacerations, cuts and abrasions?

Skin lacerations and how to treat them

Lacerations injuries are usually caused by sharp objects or from heavy blunt force trauma to the skin. These wounds tend to penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin and can lead to heavy bleeding in severe cases. Unlike cuts, the skin around lacerations will appear ragged and irregular, forming a gaping open wound. Here are some of the signs that you have suffered a laceration:

  • Excessive bleeding that won’t stop even after pressure
  • Brightly coloured red blood spurting out from the wound
  • Gaping and ragged skin Visibility of tendons or bones below the wound
  • Loss of sensation in the areas around the wound

If you are not sure how serious your wound is, it is best to get a doctor’s opinion. 


Since lacerations tend to cut deep into the skin and are accompanied by heavy blood flow, they require proper medical care to patch the wound back up. Some of the ways in which severe skin lacerations can be treated are:

  • Sutures
  • Staples
  • Painkillers
  • Micro-surgeries or surgeries
  • Plastic surgery in case of lacerations to the face

It is important to note that there is a difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery refers to surgical procedures done to enhance one’s beauty whereas plastic surgery is done to restructure a damaged body part. This may be necessary in cases where there is a severe laceration to the face.


On the other hand, mild lacerations can be treated by icing the injury and keeping the injured body part elevated above heart level. Antibiotic ointments and basic wound care procedures can be followed as well. If your skin laceration is too wide for a wound plaster, here’s how you can dress it using a cotton gauze pad and fixation tape:

  1. Make sure the wound has been cleaned and is free of debris
  2. Cut out the cotton gauze pad to the right size according to your wound
  3. Place the sterile wound pad over the wound
  4. Make sure the wound is completely covered 
  5. Use the fixation tape to keep the wound pad firmly in place
  6. Change the dressing as required

You may use other wound pads as available, but do not use cotton balls or any fibrous material as a wound pad as the fibres will get stuck inside the wound and cause further problems.  


Of course, before carrying out these steps you must assess your wound and make sure the injury is mild enough to treat at home. If there is any debris stuck in the wound, do not attempt to treat it yourself, consult a doctor immediately.


Abrasion wounds, treatment and care

Abrasions are wounds that are caused due to friction, when the skin suddenly scrapes against a rough surface, such as dirt, gravel or concrete. Usually, abrasion injuries can be seen around the joints and bony parts of the body, the most common being knee abrasions.
In abrasion wounds, the upper layer of the skin gets scraped off completely, unlike in cuts and lacerations where it merely forms a split in the dermal layers.


As children often injure themselves in this way, as a parent, it is important to know all about abrasion wounds and how one can properly treat them at home. What makes abrasions particularly tricky is that there tend to be debris like dirt, gravel or small stones embedded in the wound. If these debris are not removed properly it will interfere with the healing process and can cause scarring and infection. 


Here’s how to go about cleaning and patching up an abrasion wound:


Cleaning the wound site


This is the most important part of treating an abrasion wound. It is vital to get any debris stuck in the wound out before patching it up with a wound plaster.

 

  1. Wash your hands properly before you touch the wound
  2. Gently brush off any debris from the wound
  3. Run the wound under a stream of cool water
  4. Use cotton gauze or a clean, non-fibrous cloth to gently soak up any blood.
  5. If the wound is clean, you can start proceed with the treatment.

However, if there are still debris embedded in the wound in case of deep abrasions, you should visit a doctor for proper treatment.


Abrasion wounds are very delicate injuries, you have to be extremely careful while cleaning them to avoid further distressing the injury. Here are some of the things to avoid while cleaning an abrasion wound:


  • Do not blow on the wound as this can lead to the growth of germs.

  • Do not try to pry out deep-set debris with your hands or any tools.

  • Do not rub the wound as this will aggravate it further.



Once the wound is properly clean and free of debris, you can patch it up with a wound plaster. 


  • Apply petroleum jelly or a suitable ointment over the wound.

  • Cover it up with an appropriately sized wound plaster.

  • Change the dressing as needed.


Since they are shallow injuries, most abrasions will heal up quickly without leaving any scar behind. As long as you treat it properly and promptly, there will be no complications in the healing process. Do not hesitate to consult a doctor in case of deep abrasions or instances where a large area of skin has been scraped away.


Cuts and how to heal deep cuts

Cuts are the most common injury on this list. They are usually caused by sharp objects and in most cases, are not serious. While we all know how to take care of our cuts, in practise, we don’t often put our knowledge to the test. It may seem futile to properly treat every little cut you get, considering how often these little mishaps happen, but in actuality proper treatment of wounds is crucial, lest they get infected. Five minutes of care is all it takes to properly protect your body against any infection. 

For some people especially, cuts are far more dangerous than to others, for example, diabetic patients take longer to recover from simple wounds as the wound healing process slows down due to diabetes. Children pose a risk factor as well as they are prone to get dirt in open wounds or pick at the skin around their wounds. As a parent, you should always make sure to properly bandage up any wound your child suffers and teach them to continue this practise as they go.

Sometimes, in the case of deep cuts, the wound healing process can get complicated due to intensive bleeding. If you have suffered a deep cut that won’t stop bleeding, here’s what you should do:

The first step when dealing with deep cuts is to get the bleeding under control. Make use of a clean cloth or sterile cotton gauze to exert pressure on the wound. Make sure you do not use fibrous material so that no threads get stuck in the wound. If the gauze soaks up with blood, use a fresh cloth to apply pressure while keeping the first one in place.
Once the bleeding is under control, you can clean the wound by running it under cool water and then assess the severity of the cut. If the bleeding does not stop even after applying pressure, visit a doctor’s clinic immediately.

If the wound is manageable enough to treat at home, you can continue with the basic wound care procedures.

To sum up, here are the differences between skin lacerations, cuts, and abrasions.

  • Cuts and lacerations merely caue splits in the skin, whereas in abrasions the top layer of skin gets removed completely.
  • Cuts are usually even breaks in the skin whereas lacerations form jagged, uneven breaks.
  • Abrasions form on the bony parts of our body, such as knees and elbows, whereas lacerations and cuts can be anywhere.

So there you have it. You now know how to tell the difference between skin lacerations, cuts and abrasions. The next time you suffer a mishap you’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with and how to go about treating it. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to deal with every emergency situation with confidence.

 

Learn more about first aid and wound healing here: Wound Dressing 101 - For Faster and Effective Wound Healing