Take care of cuts and scrapes — don’t end up like Bill

None of us want to go to the doctor or hospital unless we have to, so we need to take good care of ourselves. A small injury that becomes infected can lead to a life or limb-threatening condition. 

A friend nearly lost his leg from a neglected scratch

A few years ago, I’d brought my dad into the ER at Royal Columbian Hospital. While we were sitting in the waiting room, an old family friend, hobbled in with his wife. I could see that Bill was struggling to walk, and I asked what had happened. 

He said he’d hurt his leg and pulled up his pant leg to show us. I was horrified! His leg was severely swollen, and the skin had a nasty, blue mottled appearance. He told us that he’d scratched the back of his ankle and hadn’t thought much about it until it started to get sore. His leg had become red, swollen and increasingly painful, so he went to the doctor. The doctor sent him straight to the ER. Every day for the next two weeks, Bill’s wife had to drive him to the hospital for IV antibiotic treatment. The doctors told Bill he was lucky he hadn’t lost his leg. 

First aid for a small cut or scrape

  • Cover the wound first and clean around the injured area using mild soap and gauze or an antiseptic wipe. Do not use iodine, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Once the area around the wound is clean, clean the cut with running water.
  • Remove any slivers or gravel with alcohol-sterilized tweezers.
  • Blot dry with sterile gauze.
  • Small cuts usually stop bleeding quickly, but if the wound is still bleeding, apply firm, gentle pressure with gauze. If blood soaks through, put another piece of gauze on top. Don’t remove the old one, or you might start the bleeding again.
  • Once the bleeding has stopped apply a small amount of antibiotic cream to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Cover the wound with a sterile dressing and change it every 24 hours.
  • Keep the dressing clean and dry. If the dressing becomes wet or dirty, replace it immediately. 
  • If the skin under the bandage feels itchy, you may have an allergy to the adhesive used in some bandages. For sensitive skin, try switching to sterile gauze and paper tape, or an adhesive-free dressing.

If you see signs of infection, seek medical advice without delay.

Recognizing signs of Infection

Signs of an infection include:

  • swelling
  • redness that spreads out from the injury
  • increased pain or tenderness
  • the area feels hot or warm to touch
  • oozing pus or liquid
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin
  • body aches chills and fever
  • slow healing or wound doesn’t seem to be healing at all

If you have any of these signs, seek medical advice.