A typical first aid kit contains my items that will be rotated but never used. Most people will never use the triangular bandages or resuscitation equipment included in an OSHA and ANSI certified first aid kit. However, three items will be in near-constant use from the minute a first aid kit is purchased – gauze wound cleanser and adhesive bandages. The truth is, cuts are among the most common injuries to happen in the home or the workplace and treating a cut finger is one of the most common uses of a first aid kit.
1. Stop the Bleeding
The first step to treating a cut finger is to stop the bleeding. Whether it was caused by an errant knife or a dangerous piece of paper, getting the bleeding to stop is the top priority. Using a gauze pad, apply direct pressure to the cut until bleeding stops. If you are assisting another person with a cut, be sure to put on rubber gloves before administering first aid. Not only does this the spread of infection from you to the person in distress, but it also protects you from blood-borne pathogens or infections.
2. Clean the Cut
Once bleeding has stopped, cleaning the cut is the next priority. There is some controversy about the best way to go about this. While some may argue for traditional methods such as rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, these may damage the surrounding skin, cause unnecessary pain or, in the case of hydrogen peroxide, slow healing. Doctors recommend that the best way to clean a cut is with warm water and basic soap. If these are not readily available or in a bind, a wound cleansing solution can be used to clean the cut.
3. Protect the Wound
Once the cut is cleaned, it is important to keep it clean to prevent infection. Antibiotic ointments included in many first aid kits together with a sterile adhesive bandage keep the cut free from germs and debris that would slow healing. The next challenge is keeping the bandage clean and dry. It should regularly be changed, at least daily, until the wound is healed.
When a Cut Isn’t Just a Cut
Most people understand that a cut isn’t just a cut when the bone is exposed or broken, or if the bleeding does not stop after a few minutes. However, there are other times when medical expertise should be called in to treat a cut on a finger. If the wound is deep or the edges are jagged or gaping open, stitches may be required. If the cut has dirt or debris that won’t come out regardless of cleansing, medical professionals may need to remove it using specialized tools or solutions. If the cut has any signs of infection like redness or tenderness, or if the person develops a fever, they need to see a doctor for treatment.
Finally, though not strictly considered a cut, puncture wounds require a tetanus shot if the person has not had one in the last five years while any other cuts should be accompanied by a tetanus booster if they have not had one in the last ten years.