First Aid: Punctures

A break in the skin is an open door, inviting dirt and germs to enter your body and cause infection.

Call 911

Call 911 immediately if the victim has any of the following:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding

  • Shock symptoms:

    • Pale or clammy skin.

    • The pulse may be so light or race so fast that you can’t count the beats.

    • The victim may be confused or unable to concentrate or may stare blankly. Over time, the victim may even become unconscious.

  • A large object, such as a knife, embedded in the body

While you wait for help:

  • Reassure the person.

  • Continue to control bleeding with direct pressure.

Step 1. Clean thoroughly

  • Do not squeeze the wound.

  • If the puncture wound is not severe and does not require medical attention, soak the wound in warm, soapy water to help the injury heal from the inside out.

  • Then, cover the wound with a gauze dressing to absorb any drainage and let air in for faster healing.

Step 2. Stabilize embedded objects

  • If an object lodges in the body, apply direct pressure around the wound to control bleeding. (Wear gloves or use other protection as a barrier between you and any blood.)

  • Wrap gauze or cloth around the object to hold it steady. Tape the wrapping in place.

  • Don't increase the risk of internal bleeding by trying to remove an embedded object.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The wound covers a large area or is deep.

  • The ear or eye is punctured.

  • An object such as a nail remains lodged in the body.

  • The injury is on the face or any area where scarring is a concern.

  • The person needs protection against tetanus. This is a disease caused by bacteria that may enter any break in the skin and bring on a life-threatening illness called lockjaw. The body’s defenses may need a booster injection if it’s been more than five years since the last tetanus vaccination.

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© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.