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Quick Guide to Cuts: Cleaning, Stitches, Tetanus

cut-bandageby Eva F. Briggs, M.D.

How to Clean a Cut
Wash it with plenty of soap and water. (Peroxide and alcohol aren’t necessary, and the running water will wash away germs better than merely dabbing the cut with disinfectant.)

After it’s clean, put antibacterial ointment and a bandage on it to keep out germs.

When a Cut Needs Stitches
Stitches serve three main functions:

  1. To control bleeding that won’t stop with direct pressure.
  2. To restore function, such as when a tendon is cut or a nerve is damaged.
  3. To improve cosmetic outcomes. That’s why even small cuts on the face, especially those crossing the edge of the lip or the eyebrow, may require stitches.

Learn how to care for stitches here.

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When to Get a Tetanus Booster
If you've had the primary series of tetanus inoculations, you need a booster shot every 10 years. You should also get one if you get a dirty wound and it’s been five years since your last shot.

is a board-certified family physician in Marcellus, N.Y.


Last updated and/or approved: April 2011.
Original article appeared in various issues of the former print magazine. Bio current as of original appearance. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.
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