What causes cuts and bruises?
Cuts and scrapes happen when the skin is accidentally broken or worn away. Bruises occur when a blow or impact causes the tiny blood vessels under the skin to break or burst. The blood leaks into the soft tissue under the skin causing a bluish mark which eventually fades to yellow or green.
How to treat a cut
Minor cuts should be cleaned thoroughly under a running tap, then patted dry and covered with a plaster or dressing. However, if the cut is bleeding you need to stop the blood flow before you dress it. To slow the flow, raise the injured area above the heart (gravity makes blood flow downwards) while simultaneously applying direct pressure on the affected area using a clean towel of bandage.
Once the bleeding has stopped you can apply a dressing. Keep any dressing clean, use waterproof plasters to stop it getting wet and change it regularly. Painkillers can be taken if the cut really hurts.
Most cuts heal within a few days but if the cut appears infected or is deeper than 5cm you should visit your doctor.
An ambulance should be called if a cut is to an artery - evident because the blood is bright red, hard to control and comes shooting out in spurts.
How to treat a bruise
- Bruises are best treated with a cold compress (a cloth soaked in cold water) or an ice-pack wrapped in a towel. Frozen peas will do the job as well as anything. Hold the cold press over the area for at least 10 minutes.
- Most bruises fade within a fortnight. If the bruise remains after two weeks or you keep bruising for no obvious reason then visit your GP.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
- Some people believe arnica ointment can help soothe and reduce bruising. This is a natural remedy derived from a European plant called Arnica montana.