Treating wounds: emergency first aid

Wounds are a part of everyday life, whether it's a minor graze caused by a fall at the local playing field or a large burn from touching a hot oven. Find out how to treat cuts, grazes, etc. yourself and when it's essential to see a doctor.

What is it?

The most common wounds

Wounds can be caused by cuts or surface damage to the skin. The most common types of wounds and how they occur are summarised in this overview: 

Types of wounds    
Characterisation    
Bites
  • Most common cause of wounds: an animal bite
  • High risk of infection through transmission of bacteria
  • Injuries can vary greatly depending on the teeth and size of the animal's jaw
Burns
  • Skin damage caused by the effects of heat or UV radiation
  • Scarring may occur depending on the severity of the burn
  • More about burns
Lacerations
  • Often initially with heavy bleeding
  • Caused by trauma (e.g. a fall or blow)
  • Often affect the head, forehead, elbows and knees
  • Also called contused wounds
Cuts
  • Injury caused by objects with a sharp edge
  • May be deep and injure nerves or blood vessels
  • Stitches necessary depending on severity
  • One of the most common injuries in the home 
Grazes
  • Superficial skin injury, only affects the upper layer of skin
  • Injury caused by grazing the skin
  • Wound with irregular edges
  • May contain foreign objects and be heavily contaminated
Stab wounds
  • Caused by pointed objects (e.g. knives or shards of glass)
  • On the surface, stab wounds frequently appear to be minor injuries, but they may extend deep into the tissue and cause major internal injuries
  • High risk of infection
What to do?

Treating wounds correctly

You can treat minor skin wounds yourself. It is important to always wash your hands before treating a wound. Using hand disinfectant is also recommended: 

Wound care     
1. Clean the wound

If the wound is dirty, it should be cleaned using lukewarm water. Then carefully pat the affected area dry with a clean cotton cloth. You can now use sterile tweezers to remove small foreign objects like gravel or splinters of wood. 

2. Disinfect the wound

Treat the wound with a wound care cream or spray. 

3. Cover the wound

Cover the wound, for example with a plaster, to prevent germs getting in. Change the dressing regularly while the wound is healing.    

When to see a doctor?

When should I see a doctor?

Wounds should be examined and treated by a doctor as quickly as possible (at the latest 6 hours after the injury) in the following instances:

  • Wounds that are large, deep or bleeding heavily
  • Wounds that are very dirty or contain foreign objects
  • Severe pain
  • Animal bites (risk of infection)
  • No protection against tetanus (vaccination)