Understanding minor wounds

It’s something that we all encounter regularly in our lives: you make a wrong move, you scratch a little, and all of a sudden you notice that break in your skin. A wound is a type of injury that involves laceration or the breaking of a membrane, most commonly your skin, and its underlying tissues(1). In this article, we’ll be looking at minor wounds: what causes them, what level of pain they bring, and how to treat them when you have one.

What causes wounds?

Different kinds of minor wounds are caused by different things, so let’s explore by type:

ScrapeThis is the type of wound you see often on children’s elbows and knees when they fall. It’s where the top layer of skin has been rubbed off. The pain level can be quite high because the nerve endings are intact and exposed.

CutThis is a type of wound where your skin is sliced open by a sharp plane. It could be small and shallow like a paper cut or large and deep, as is the case with some knife cuts. Not all cuts are smooth—some may be jagged depending on the instrument that has cut you, and the pain levels vary depending on the size and depth.

What causes wounds?

BlisterA type of wound wherein fluid collects in a bubble under your skin. This may or may not be open because blisters burst, and they come in different sizes. If the skin isn’t broken, the blister is considered sterile.

PunctureThis is a type of wound where you see a small hole in the skin, and it can be deep or shallow. Because it’s not as open as the other types, it doesn’t bleed out as much and can be easily infected. Mosquito wounds, splinter wounds and other piercings are examples of a puncture wound.

First aid for minor wounds

The good news for minor wounds is that most of them can be safely treated at home. With proper first aid, your wound should recover in a few days without any problems.

Stop the bleeding - If the wound is bleeding, you’ll need to address that immediately before doing anything else. Get a clean and dry absorbent material that won’t leave residue—a towel or a handkerchief will do if you don’t have a bandage handy—and apply pressure to the affected area for several minutes to give time for your blood to clot. It also helps to reduce the blood flow to that area—this is easy to do if the wound is on your limbs. Lift your arms above your head or lie down and raise your legs above your heart level to reduce the blood flow3.

Clean the wound - When you’ve got the bleeding under control—or, in the case of a puncture, if there’s minimal to no bleeding involved, and you’re sure there’s no debris stuck in there—it’s time to clean the affected area to avoid infection. Wash with cool or lukewarm water and use mild soap to remove any dirt and debris gently4.

Address the pain and/or itching - here are topical remedies you can apply to your wound before dressing it (if it needs to be dressed at all) to help you address pain and itching. Ensure that the product used contains camphor and eucalyptus oil, which helps give you temporary relief from pain or itching due to minor wounds. If it is still painful, you might want to take over-the-counter pain medication to help ease it a little4. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider for appropriate treatment.

To dress or not to dress? - Some wounds require dressing—deeper minor wounds that might reopen and start bleeding again will need clean dressing. Make sure to use sterile adhesive dressing and change it as often as necessary to keep it clean and help avoid infection. You can stop dressing the wound once it has fully dried and closed itself3.

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Others, however, will not require dressing, such as small mosquito wounds that will resolve on its own after 24 hours, or paper cuts and other smaller lacerations. In this case, you can leave them open—they will dry out in open air and heal quicker without dressing. Don’t dress a wound that you suspect may not have been cleaned properly as well—this can trap bacteria and lead to infection5.

With proper care, minor wounds should resolve themselves easily—just follow these tips and you’ll be in great shape to manage them more effectively. Remember to always seek professional medical advice for further information on treating minor wounds.

  1. “Wound (definition).” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Accessed September 9, 2020. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wound
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. “4. Controlling Infection, Bleeding and Swelling.” First Aid for Families: A Parent’s Guide to Safe and Healthy Kids” pp.38-39. Jones & Bartlett Learning 2012. Accessed through Google Books September 9, 2020. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=6NDmgAL22s4C&pg=PA39&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
  3. “Cuts and grazes.” NHS. Accessed September 9, 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cuts-and-grazes/
  4. “How to treat minor cuts.” American Academy of Dermatology Association. Accessed September 9, 2020. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin/burns/treat-minor-cuts
  5. “Emergency Wound Care After a Natural Disaster.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed September 9, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/woundcare.html