Basic First Aid


It's hard to avoid minor wounds.  They can happen to anyone, any time.  These wounds aren't serious, so medical attention is not always necessary.  So you should know how to treat them to encourage uneventful healing.

What Is A Minor Wound?

A minor wound is a small, surface injury to the skin.  We'll discuss a few basic kinds:   

  • A cut (or laceration) can be made by any sharp object--a knife, scissors, broken glass.  

  • A scrape (or abrasion) is exemplified by a child's skinned knee.  

  • A puncture is a hole in the body.  It can be made from any sharp object, like stepping on a sharp stick or nail.  

Treatment of these injuries generally follows the same protocol: 

  • Apply pressure to stop the bleeding.  

  • Rinse the wound with cool water to remove any debris from the wound. 

  • Wash it with soap and water to clean the wound, then rinse again to remove the soap. 

  • Let the wound air dry, then bandage it with a sterile dressing.  


But.........with those basic principles in mind, it's important to mention that puncture wounds are more serious, and have some additional concerns and treatment suggestions.    

What's so special about puncture wounds? 

Puncture wounds are the somewhat more dangerous for a several reasons: 

First, these wounds often leave portions of material or dirt inside the foot.  To help combat this possibility, you may wish to apply pressure around the wound as your first step, in order to encourage bleeding, which may help rid the wound of any debris.  If there is a concern of a foreign body in the wound, an X-ray may be advisable. 

Second, after you're certain there is no foreign material in the wound, we'd need to consider whether a tetanus shot is necessary.   Because of their nature, puncture wounds are particularly likely to result in a serious type of infection called tetanus.  To prevent this, you may need a tetanus shot--depending on the kind of shot you received last time, and when it was administered.  

A tetanus shot can protect you for up to ten years. You'll need to check your medical records or call your family physician to see if you need another one.

What's tetanus? 

Tetanus is a serious infection caused by a poison from a type of bacteria called clostridia.  These bacteria are found in soil, especially soil where animals may have been present.  If the bacteria get inside a puncture wound, they thrive in the conditions produced by these wounds--closed over by skin and conditions of low oxygen.  At this point their poison can spreads through the bloodstream and sets off muscle spasms throughout the body.  The most well-known of these spasms is called "Lock Jaw".   

How do I know who needs a tetanus shot?   

Babies should receive a series of tetanus inoculations before 1 year, a booster shot at 1-1/2 years, and another booster before entering school.

To keep the immunization to tetanus effective, everyone--children and adults--should have a tetanus booster shot every 10 years.  You should record the dates of the shots and take them with you whenever someone in your family needs emergency treatment.

In general, if you have had the basic 4 tetanus immunizations or a booster injection within the past 5 years, it may not be necessary to have another booster after a puncture wound.

If you're at all uncertain, check with your family physician or podiatrist.

For more information on tetanus, we have a web page devoted to this topic.  Just click on the word tetanus.


Remember, any wound can become infected, so if you see expanding redness around the wound, swelling around the affected area, a cloudy-yellowish discharge, the wound may infected and you should have us check it out.  Antibiotics may be necessary.  

Continue to cleanse and bandage the wound daily and watch for any signs of infection until the wound has healed. 


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This website is operated by 
The Achilles Foot Health Centre
S. A. Schumacher, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S., F.A.C.F.A.O.M.  
Dr. S. A. Schumacher, Podiatric Corporation  

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