Accidents happen all the time, from your child’s latest boo-boo to a co-worker’s on-the-job injury to slicing your finger while chopping veggies, so knowing how to stop the bleeding is key.
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Emergency medicine physician Baruch Fertel, MD, shares first-aid tips on how to treat a cut.
How to stop a small cut from bleeding
Small cuts are minor injuries that typically stop bleeding on their own or after a few minutes of direct pressure. They don’t go any deeper than the skin, and there’s no substantial blood loss.
“There’s a big difference between a paper cut that doesn’t stop oozing for 15 minutes versus a serious wound that’s constantly pouring out a lot of blood,” Dr. Fertel says. “Sometimes that small cut just needs some patience”
Small cuts are annoying and painful, but fortunately, they’re not dangerous, and you can treat them at home. Dr. Fertel shares the steps to take with a small cut.
1. Apply pressure
Place clean gauze or cloth on the wound and apply direct pressure. For stubborn small bleeds, you may need to hold pressure for 15 minutes without interruption to allow a clot to form.
If the cut is on your legs or arms, elevate the limb above heart level to slow the blood flow. Keep putting direct pressure on the cut.
3. Wash the wound
When the wound stops bleeding, release the pressure. Wash the area with soap and water to prevent infection. Be gentle to avoid re-opening the wound.
4. Bandage it up
Apply a bandage to protect the area. “Simple soap and water and a bandage do the job of keeping the cut clean and protected,” Dr. Fertel explains. “I’m not a fan of using anything else such as hydrogen peroxide, alcohol or antibiotic cream.”
How to handle deep cuts
Dr. Fertel says a deep cut is any wound that’s gaping, jagged and looks deep, revealing fat or muscle. Even if you can stop the bleeding, a doctor should examine a deep cut because it may need stitches or other advanced wound closure.
But it’s often difficult to stop the bleeding of a deep cut, and uncontrolled bleeding from a deep or large cut is a very serious situation. Call 911 if you experience:
- Spurting blood.
- Blood soaking through dressings.
- A significant amount of blood loss.
- Bleeding that’s not controlled by applying pressure.
- A wound that penetrates the chest or abdomen. The cut may have affected vital organs.
First-aid kit items for deep cuts
If a first-aid kit is available, look for these items designed to stop intense bleeding:
- Hemostatic gauze has medicine on it that helps blood quickly clot. Use it to pack deep cuts on the neck or torso, Dr. Fertel says.
- A tourniquet is another tool that stops bleeding by wrapping around an extremity (limb) to cut off blood flow from the heart. Use this if a limb has a deep cut and is bleeding profusely.
Signs a cut is infected
A scab — a patch of crusty, tough tissue — typically forms during the healing process, creating a protective shield over the wound. Eventually, the scab falls off to reveal healthy, shiny skin, and you feel as good as new — just another day on the job for the incredible human body.
Sometimes, though, infection sets in before a scab can form. Seek medical attention if you notice signs of infection, including:
- Increase in pain.
- Swelling, redness or warmth around the wound.
- Pus (yellowish liquid) oozing out of the wound.
The healing process takes about three weeks, but the first step is crucial. Knowing how to properly care for a cut following injury could save someone’s life. And correctly treating small cuts helps prevent infection.