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Effective First Aid for an Open Wound

Open wound

Table of Contents

An open wound is an injury that leaves internal tissue exposed to the external environment. In acute cases, it is treatable at home using medications.

Learn how to differentiate a severe open wound from acute ones and available treatment methods to prevent permanent complications.


What is an Open Wound

Open wounds are types of injuries that cause skin breakage. It mostly comes from accidents that involve sharp or rough objects cutting through the skin and leaving some form of trauma. If left untreated, it can expose harmful bacteria, putting the casualty at risk of infection. The wound may appear red, tender, painful, or produce pus (drainage).

The most common accidents from open wounds are falls, vehicular accidents, and mishandling of sharp tools and machinery.

Like any other injury, open wounds are classified into four different categories.


Four Types of Open Wounds

These classifications depend on the cause and extent of the injury.



Abrasions occur when the first layer of the skin rubs or scrapes against a rough surface. Road rash is an example of this type of wound. It usually does not involve heavy bleeding, but it needs proper cleaning to avoid infection.



Lacerations refer to a deep cut or tearing of the skin. The common causes are accidents involving knives, tools, and equipment, resulting in rapid and extensive bleeding.



Punctures (or stab wounds) are small holes from long, pointy objects penetrating the skin. Accidents with nails or needles and bullets are the best example.

It may not involve heavy bleeding, but puncture wounds can penetrate deep enough to damage the internal organs. It is best to see a doctor and get a tetanus shot for punctures to prevent infection.



Avulsions refer to the partial or complete tearing of skin and its underlying tissues. It mainly occurs in violent accidents, including explosions, gunshots, and road crashes.

Avulsions tend to bleed heavily and rapidly.

Minor wounds are treatable at home, but severe cases require professional help. It is vital to identify the wound type to consider the best next steps for administering first aid.


First Aid Treatment

Open wound care involves the following first aid steps.


  • Stop the bleeding

Gently apply pressure over the wound to stop the bleed and promote blood clotting. Make sure to use it over a clean cloth or bandage.


  • Clean the wound

Run it under clean water or use saline solution to flush away remaining debris and bacteria. Do not try to remove any foreign objects embedded in the wound.

The doctor may need to perform a procedure to remove dead tissue, glass, bullets, and any other foreign object in the wound.


  • Take antibiotics treatment

Apply a thin layer of antibiotic treatment over the wound to prevent infection buildup.


  • Apply dressing

After cleaning and applying the medication, closing the wound help promote a faster healing process. Use waterproof bandages and gauzes for minor wounds and stitches or staples (done by doctors) for severe ones.


  • Routinely change the dressing.

Change and remove old bandages every 24 hours. Ensure to disinfect and completely dry the wound before reapplying with a clean bandage or gauze.

Additional first aid tip: Be mindful of open wounds as they can easily catch an infection from the bacterial colonies present on the skin. When attending to an open wound, it is essential to practice proper sanitation to prevent further complications.

Open wounds that do not show significant improvement within weeks are chronic injuries. This type will require more advanced open wound care.


When to Seek Urgent Care

The main complication to look out for in an open wound is the risk of infection. Seek professional help immediately in a severe accident involving punctures and deep lacerations. Significant bleeding is also a sign to see a doctor.

Signs of open wound infection include an increase in pus (drainage), a fever that does not go down, and a wound that is not healing.


Wound Care Training

Prevention will always be better than cure for open wounds and infections. Avoid accidental injuries by ensuring the environment is risk-free and that sharp, pointy objects are handled with care.

In the case of an open wound, knowing how to recognize a severe from an acute one will help you manage an injury. It is best to be familiar with first aid steps to receive quick treatment for the wounds.



Need First Aid Training?

First Aid Course Darwin provides nationally recognized training courses covering how to examine a wound, bleeding control, and trauma management. We run courses mornings and evenings, seven days a week. Individual and group training courses are available.

For more information, contact us at (08) 8382 4677 or email courses@firstaidpro.com.au.

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