Online Shopping Customer Service 0300 3033380*
Cuts and grazes

Shopping Cart

Health Advice
Main Menu



Cuts and grazes


More From

NHS Contents


Cuts and grazes
A cut or graze happens when the outer layer of skin is broken. A cut normally penetrates deeper into the skin than a graze. A graze usually involves a larger area of skin than a cut. Cuts are also called lacerations, while grazes are also called abrasions.
Most cuts and grazes occur as a result of an accident. A cut is usually caused by a sharp object such as a knife or broken glass. Grazes are usually caused by friction where the skin is ripped away by rubbing against a rough surface such as a pavement, road or a gravel path. Children are more likely to get cuts and grazes than adults because they are less aware of dangerous objects and situations, and are more prone to trips and falls.
Grazes feel raw and tender, and can sting. A graze might also bleed a little. A cut is usually a deeper wound than a graze, and may bleed quite heavily. The grazed or cut area will be sore and painful to touch. Eventually a scab will form over the wound. The scab protects the wound while it heals. If the cut or graze is a deep wound, the skin may be scarred or pitted after the wound has healed.

If a cut or graze becomes red and swollen, or if a yellow discharge leaks from the wound, this indicates that the wound is probably infected.
Sterile dressings and plasters can be used to cover a cut or graze once the wound has been cleaned thoroughly. An antiseptic cream containing antibacterial agents such as cetrimide, cetylpyridinium chloride or chlorhexidine may also be used to reduce the risk of infection.
When to see your pharmacist
As cuts and grazes happen so frequently, particularly with children, it is a wise precaution to keep a First-Aid kit in the home to cope with these mishaps as soon as they occur. First-Aid kits can be obtained from your local pharmacy where you can also get antiseptic creams, plasters and dressings.

If you think that the cut or graze has become infected, show the wound to your pharmacist who will be able to confirm if it is infected and will advise you appropriately.
When to see your doctor
If the wound is bleeding heavily and will not stop bleeding, put pressure on the wound and seek medical advice urgently.

If the wound seems to be gaping open or is very deep you should see your doctor or go to the hospital. Wide, gaping wounds will need to be closed by the use of Steri-strips or by stitches to allow them to heal and to reduce scarring.

If you think the wound is infected, for example has become red and swollen or you have developed a high temperature, you should seek medical advice.

If you are not up-to-date with your tetanus vaccination, you should see your doctor, particularly if the wound has been caused while gardening as the spores of the bacteria causing tetanus are present in soil.
Living with cuts and grazes
As cuts and grazes can happen frequently and without warning, particularly with children or if carrying out DIY and gardening, it is a wise precaution to keep a First-Aid kit in the home to cope with these mishaps as soon as they occur. Complete First-Aid kits can be obtained from your local pharmacy or, as a minimum, keep a supply of antiseptic creams, plasters and dressings in an easily accessible place so that they can be located quickly in the event of an accident.

If you can see any dirt or debris in the wound, try and remove it carefully. If possible hold the area under a cold running tap or wash it with a dilute antiseptic solution to clean the wound thoroughly. Make sure you follow the instructions to dilute any antiseptic solutions, as these products can burn the skin if applied directly from the bottle. If the cut or graze is bleeding, hold a piece of clean fabric, such as a clean handkerchief or swab, firmly over the wound. Press it gently until the bleeding stops. If the wound is bleeding heavily, try and lift the wound into a position above the heart. For example, if the cut is on the finger or hand, raise the arm in the air and keep it there, while continuing to press with the handkerchief or swab. Once the bleeding has stopped, cover the wound with a plaster or a dressing to keep it clean. For larger cuts, Steri-strips can be used to hold both sides of a cut together while it heals. An antiseptic cream may also be used to reduce the risk of infection.

As the cut or graze begins to heal, a scab will form over the damaged area. Do not be tempted to pick at or remove the scab. Removing the scab before wound healing is complete can delay the healing process and it may cause the wound to become infected.

For the future, learn First-Aid. In addition to helping you cope with cuts and grazes, knowing what to do in the event of an accident or an emergency can help save lives. St John Ambulance runs thousands of training courses across the country. It is easy to find one at a time and place that will suit you.
Further information
Information on First-Aid courses and first aid advice may be obtained from the St John Ambulance website:
Useful Tips
  • Make sure you clean the wound thoroughly
  • Keep a stock of dressings and antiseptic at home
  • Change the dressing regularly and try to keep it as dry as possible

Reviewed on 20 October 2010