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Cuts and Puncture Wounds
Learn about the causes, complications, treatments, and prevention of cuts and puncture wounds.

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A cut, or laceration, is a tear or opening in the skin that occurs due to an external injury. It can be superficial, affecting only the surface of your skin or deep enough to involve:

  • tendons
  • muscles
  • ligaments
  • bones

A puncture wound is a deep wound that occurs due to something sharp and pointed, such as a nail. The opening on the skin is small, and the puncture wound may not bleed much. Puncture wounds can easily become infected. A doctor should always examine a deep puncture wound. Puncture wounds that occur due to a bite or stepping on a rusty piece of metal, such as a nail, need prompt medical attention.

A cut can cause external and internal bleeding. A significant cut can cause profuse bleeding if it isn’t treated promptly and properly. Cuts and puncture wounds that cause excessive blood loss or those that damage the organs can be fatal.

What are the causes?

The most common causes of cuts and puncture wounds are external injuries that break or tear the skin. These causes include:

  • falls
  • car accidents
  • broken glass
  • stabbings
  • razor cuts

The most common causes for puncture wounds include:

  • stepping on a sharp object, such as a nail
  • getting bitten
  • falling onto something sharp

Although puncture wounds don’t normally bleed heavily, they’re prone to infection. This is especially true if a bite or a rusty object caused the wound. See your doctor immediately if this is the case.

First aid for cuts and puncture wounds

Cuts or puncture wounds that are minor may be treated at home. For more severe cuts or puncture wounds, immediate medical attention is necessary.


First, stop any bleeding by covering the cut and applying gentle pressure. If the cut is bleeding heavily and you aren’t able to stop it, seek medical treatment immediately.

Next, clean the cut thoroughly with an alcohol wipe, antiseptic wash, or clean water. Dip a cotton swab into hydrogen peroxide and lightly roll it over the area of the cut to clean it. Use tweezers that have been cleaned with alcohol to remove debris on the surface of the cut. If you see debris embedded in the cut, don’t attempt to remove it. Seek help from your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room.

Once the cut has been cleaned, apply an antibiotic cream to it. This can prevent infection and speed the healing process. Apply a bandage to the cut site. Change the bandage daily and whenever it becomes wet or dirty.

Deeper cuts may require medical treatment. Treatment options for deep cuts include stitches, staples, or liquid stitches.

You may also need to take antibiotics to prevent infection.

Puncture wounds

First, attempt to stop the bleeding by covering the wound with a clean bandage and applying gentle pressure. If the wound is bleeding heavily and you cannot stop it, immediately seek emergency medical care.

Next, clean the area thoroughly using a small alcohol wipe. Don’t attempt to wash a puncture wound. If you notice debris embedded into the puncture wound, don’t try to remove it. Don’t probe the wound if you realize part of the object that caused the wound has broken off. Instead, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Once the skin is clean, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to prevent infection. Cover the puncture wound with a bandage. You should change the bandage daily or sooner if it becomes wet or dirty. Check for signs of infection, such as:

  • redness
  • drainage, such as pus, from the wound site
  • warmth or swelling in the surrounding area

When is a cut or puncture wound an emergency?

Although most minor puncture wounds and cuts heal without treatment beyond first aid and home care, some should receive immediate medical attention. Seek emergency medical care if you notice any of the following:

  • the bleeding is heavy, spurting, or doesn’t stop after 10 minutes of applying pressure
  • feeling and function are impaired in the area of the cut or wound
  • muscle, tendon, or bone is exposed

Contact your doctor immediately if:

  • debris is embedded in the cut or wound
  • the cut or wound occurred due to a bite
  • you haven’t had a tetanus shot in 10 years
  • you stepped on an object, such as a nail
  • the cut or wound occurred due to a fish hook
  • the cut or wound shows the symptoms of infection, such as swelling around the site, throbbing pain, or fluid leaking from the cut or wound

Your doctor may suggest you get a tetanus vaccine.

Complications of cuts and puncture wounds

Possible complications from a cut or puncture wound include:

  • a wound infection
  • a blood infection, or sepsis
  • gangrene
  • an amputation
  • a loss of function in the area of the wound
  • nerve damage
  • organ damage

Preventing cuts and puncture wounds

Prevent cuts and puncture wounds by taking the following steps to ensure your physical safety:

  • Don’t play sports without using proper protective gear.
  • Wear shoes and make sure the soles are sturdy and cannot be punctured by a nail.
  • Don’t use heavy machinery or tools without wearing proper safety equipment and shoes.
  • After an accident, quickly clear away debris, such as broken glass.
  • Dry up spills, especially on slippery surfaces, before running or walking over the surface.
Written by: April Kahn
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: [Ljava.lang.Object;@265f9a76
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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