How to Identify and Care for Wounds

Basic First Aid/Care for Wounds

You should apply pressure to your wound using a clean cloth or bandage. However, in an emergency situation use whatever is available to you, your first priority is to stop the bleeding. Maintain continuous pressure for 5-10 minutes. Do not lift the cloth at any point during this time to examine your wound. If blood soaks through the cloth place another on top of it, do not remove the original covering.

Once the bleeding has been controlled, wash your hands, and then gently wash the wound with soap and water. Do not scrub your wound, simply allowing water to run over your wound is sufficient to remove dirt and debris. Furthermore, you do not have to use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean your wound; science has not found substantial evidence that these products clean wounds better than water.

Types of Wounds

  • Lacerations

This type of wound is classified as simple breaks in the skin.

  • Incisions

Incisions are surgical wounds made using a scalpel. They look identical to lacerations, however, this type of wound has smooth edges rather than jagged.

  • Punctures

Puncture wounds describe a wound that occurred from an object entering and exiting the body through the same wound, i.e. a stab wound. If a large object created the puncture wound(s), they may appear like lacerations.

  • Avulsions

An Avulsion describes a wound that resulted from the tearing of the skin. You may have a flap of skin with three open sides, or this flap may tear away completely. Typically, you cannot receive closures for this type of wound, but you should still consult with a doctor.

  • Abrasions

Abrasions differ from avulsions in depth. An abrasion will leave the skin mostly intact while an avulsion will essentially remove the skin.

Types of Closures

hand with a bandage on the palm
  • Stitches

Stitches, a.k.a. Sutures can be used anywhere on the body.

  • Medical Adhesive (Dermabond)

Typically, medical providers only use Dermabond to close wounds smaller than one inch in length; usually applied to facial wounds.

  • Staples

Staples will cause scarring, as a result, they typically are only applied above the hairline.

  • Steri-Strips

Steri-Strips, similar to bandaids, are not typically used for major wounds; typically used on older patients with skin tears.

Factors That Determine if You Need Wound Closures


If your wound exceeds ¼ inches in-depth, or if you can see bone, tendons, or deep tissue a medical professional will need to close up your wound. Additionally, if the wound’s edges do not pull together easily, or you have a gaping wound, your wound will require stitching in order to properly heal.


Generally speaking, if the wound is longer than one inch, some form of medical closures will be required. 


The location of the injury will also help you determine if you will require stitches. For example, if you sustain a wound on a joint (i.e. elbows, knees, etc.), you will likely need stitches to ensure the wound stays closed long enough to heal.

Furthermore, wounds located in an area prone to infection may not receive stitches until the wound has been properly sterilized and antibiotics administered. This will greatly reduce the chances of infection.

Conversely, facial wounds will be treated almost immediately to further reduce the chances of scarring. Furthermore, cuts on or near the genitals should be given immediate medical attention.


If your wound does not stop bleeding after 10 minutes of continuous direct pressure, you need immediate medical attention.

Wound Type

Occasionally, the type of wound impacts the necessity of medical closures. For example, bite and puncture wounds likely will not receive sutures, as both heal better without them. However, regardless of the depth of a puncture wound, you should seek medical attention. 

If you were involved in an auto accident, all wounds need to be evaluated by a medical professional. Your wounds may contain some type of debris, like broken glass or gravel.

Signs of Infection:

  • Redness Around the Wound
  • Red Streaks Spreading From Wound
  • Increased Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Pain and Tenderness
  • Pus or Drainage
  • A Fever Exceeding 101℉

***If you get an infection in your wound, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, they may also recommend stitches if not already administered.

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