Even though cuts and scrapes may sound minor, it is possible for them to get infected, particularly if they are not treated carefully.1 If you cut or scrape yourself, you need to take a few steps to minimize your chances of developing an infection. This includes dressing the wound with a clean bandage, using antibiotic ointment, and washing the wound regularly.2 Refer to the steps below to learn more about how to prevent wound infection with first aid for cuts and scrapes.

First Aid for Cuts & Scrapes

If you suffer a scrape or cut, you need to apply first aid quickly. How do you treat a scraped knee, or any other type of scrape? Some of the steps to keep in mind include:

  • Wash your hands. You should always start by washing your hands to reduce your chances of developing an infection.3 You may not realize that you have a lot of bacteria living on your hands. Therefore, you need to wash your hands thoroughly to avoid passing the bacteria from your hands to the wounded area.3
  • Stop any bleeding that might be present. If it is a relatively minor scrape, the bleeding should stop on its own. If it is still bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a cloth or a clean bandage.3 You may also want to elevate the wound to get the bleeding to slow.4
  • After the bleeding has stopped, start to clean the wound. You should start by rinsing it with clean water. Then, wash around the scrape with soap.3 Try to avoid getting soap in the wound, as it might sting. If there is any dirt or debris in the wound, you may want to use some tweezers to remove it, but always clean the tweezers with alcohol first.5
  • If you have a topical antibiotic, you should apply it to the surface of the wound as it can keep the surface moist and prevent it from scarring. The antibiotic ointment can also reduce the chances of the scrape getting infected.3
  • After applying the topical antibiotic, cover the wound with a bandage or gauze.3 You might need to use paper tape to keep the gauze in place. Covering the wound is important for keeping it clean.

    This is a brief overview of the steps you need to follow if you want to clean a cut or scrape. If you would like to learn more about how to clean and dress a scraped knee, you should take a look at the detailed guide on How to Clean & Dress a Wound.

How do cuts and wounds get infected?

Cuts and wounds will get infected relatively easily because the surface of the skin has been disrupted. You may not realize that your skin is the largest part of your immune system.6 Your skin is the body’s primary barrier against potential infections. If you scrape your knee, you have disrupted that barrier, making it easier for bacteria and viruses to infect the wound.6 If bacteria or viruses infiltrate your wound, your immune system will respond by sending white blood cells to fight the infection.6 This is why you might not notice an infection even if you have developed a scrape; however, you also need to support your immune system by cleaning the wound thoroughly and dressing it properly.

How to prevent a wound infection

If you want to prevent a wound infection, there are a few simple steps you should follow. They include:

  • Make sure you wash the wound with soap and water immediately after getting a cut. This is important for removing any debris that might contain viruses and bacteria.3
  • You should also use a topical antibacterial product, ointment or jelly for wounds. Topical antibiotic ointments, jellies or creams help keep the area moist while also having antiseptic properties. Topical antibiotic ointments can reduce the chances of developing an infection.7
  • Once you are done cleaning the wound, do not forget to apply a clean bandage or gauze dressing. This barrier can help prevent bacteria and viruses from infiltrating the open wound.7
  • Don't forget that you should try to wash the wound and replace the dressing at least once per day.7

    These steps can markedly reduce your chances of developing a wound infection.

Signs of an infected cut

Even if you take the necessary precautions, a cut might still get infected. You need to stay vigilant for signs of an infected cut. That way, you can respond as quickly as possible, to help prevent complications from developing.

Some of the most common signs of an infected wound include: 7,8

  • You might notice some swelling in the area. Swelling takes place because the immune system causes cells and fluids to move to the site of the wound to fight infection. If the wound starts to swell, it could be infected.7
  • Pain, warmth and skin redness, especially if the redness is spreading rapidly could be signs of infection.
  • Finally, remain vigilant for any pus that might be coming from the wound which could be a sign of infection.7

You should reach out to a doctor for more information. You might also need to get another tetanus booster.

How to treat an infected cut at home

If you believe the cut is getting infected, there are ways you can treat it at home. These include:

  • Using antibiotic ointments such as POLYSPORIN® Complete Ointment, which is non-stinging, odorless, and contains three distinct antibiotics to minimize infection.7,9 You may need to apply it up tothree times per day.10
  • Use a bandage or gauze dressing to cover the wound.7
  • Make sure you change the bandage daily or whenever it gets wet or dirty.7
  • Use a journal to keep track of the symptoms in case a doctor wants more information.

If you feel like the symptoms are not getting any better, you need to reach out to a doctor for help.

How to make a scrape heal faster?

If you are wondering how to heal a scrape fast, there are a few important points you should keep in mind. They include:

  • Continue using antibiotic creams to fight infection. Try to select a topical antibiotic that protects against a variety of bacterial infections and reapply it several times per day as directed on the package.10
  • Care for the wound by cleaning it regularly. You should change the bandage once per day, applying a fresh, dry bandage each time. Be careful not to rub or scrape the wound too much while showering or bathing.10
  • You may also want to explore natural remedies, such as aloe vera. It can play a role in reducing inflammation while providing nutrients that foster the healing process.11

If you would like to learn more about how to clean and dress a scraped knee, you should take a look at the detailed guide on How to Clean & Dress a Wound.

When to see a doctor

Even though you may be able to treat a wound infection at home, there are some situations where you should reach out to a doctor. They include:12

  • If the redness is spreading out from the wound, it could be moving to other parts of the body, so you need to see a doctor.12
  • If you have a hard time moving the affected area, it could be a sign of a serious infection.12
  • If the pain, redness, and swelling are still getting worse after a few days, you should call your doctor.12

You should always follow your doctor's instructions to minimize possible complications.


1. https://health.umms.org/2021/10/10/infected-or-healing-cuts/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7951490/
3. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/accidents-first-aid-and-treatments/how-do-i-clean-a-wound
4. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=zm6160&
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4623738/
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515324
7. https://www.fairview.org/patient-education/85329
8. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/necrotizing-soft-tissue-infection
9. https://www.polysporin.ca/products/complete-antibiotic-ointment
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6465080/
11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6330525/
12. https://www.orlandohealth.com/content-hub/is-this-wound-serious-when-to-see-a-specialist