What is a cut or scrape?

Cuts, scratches and scrapes are minor skin wounds like a small puncture or skinned knee that may or may not draw blood. Anytime your skin is broken, whether it bleeds or not, there is a risk for infection.

Causes of a cut or scrape

Skin can be easily broken from falls, sharp objects and other accidents that are part of everyday life.

Risk factors for a cut or scrape

Anyone can get cuts and scrapes, but some risk factors include:

  • Age — children tend to be more active, less coordinated and have thinner skin, which makes them more likely to get cuts and scrapes.
  • Sports — anyone who participates in sports is more likely to fall, slide or make contact with the ground and other objects than can break the skin.

Symptoms of a cut or scrape

Broken skin is the main symptom of a cut, scratch or scrape, including:

  • Puncture wound or hole in your skin
  • Thin line or opening in your skin
  • Top layer of skin damaged or peeled off (may or may not bleed)

Diagnosis of a cut or scape

Cuts and scrapes won’t need an official diagnosis and typically don’t warrant a healthcare visit.

If the wound is from an animal or human bite, has debris that you cannot get out or won’t stop bleeding, you should see your primary care provider or visit an urgent care.

Treatments for a cut or scrape

Minor cuts, scratches and scrapes can be treated at home with the following care:

  • Clean the wound — using only soap and water, products like hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol will also kill good bacteria and can increase the risk of infection
  • Stop the bleeding — apply pressure with gauze or a clean towel
  • Apply antibiotics — over-the-counter ointments like bacitracin zinc and neomycin sulfate will help prevent infection
  • Cover and keep it dry — apply a bandage fully covering the wound, changing at least once a day (when dirty or wet)
Continue to gently wash your wound daily with soap and water. Anytime the skin is broken, you should check when your last tetanus shot was received and talk with your healthcare provider if it has been more than five years.

Recovery from a cut or scrape

Each wound will heal differently, depending on the size, depth and location of the cut or scrape.

In most cases, minor wounds will scab within 3-5 days. Scabbing is a normal phase of the wound healing process, and you should not pick or peel at scabs. Opening scabs can lead to infection and scarring.

If a cut or scrape doesn’t begin to heal within a week, worsens or becomes red and inflamed, you may have an infection and should make an appointment with your primary care provider.