What is an open wound?

An open wound is an injury that involves an external or internal damage in the bodily tissues, usually the skin. Almost everyone has experienced an open wound at some point. Most cases are generally mild and can be managed at home.

Falls, vehicular accidents and mishaps involving sharp tools or objects are the usual causes of open wounds. In serious accidents, call for emergency assistance or seek immediate medical care especially if there is significant bleeding or if it lasts more than 20 minutes.

Management of open wounds

Home care for a minor wound

For minor open wounds, they can be managed at home. The first step is to cleanse and disinfect the wound to get rid of all the dirt and debris. Apply direct pressure and elevated the affected limb to control the bleeding and swelling.


Apply direct pressure and elevated the affected limb to control the bleeding and swelling.

When bandaging the wound, utilize a sterile bandage or dressing. Make sure that the wound is clean and dry for 5 days. The individual should also get enough rest.

Since pain usually occurs along with any wound, you can provide a pain medication such as acetaminophen as directed on the packaging. Do not use any aspirin products since they can cause or prolong bleeding. Apply an ice pack if there is swelling or bruising.

When spending time outdoors under the sun, apply a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) over the area until it has fully healed.

Medical care

The doctor might utilize various techniques to manage open wounds. After cleansing and possibly numbing the affected area using an anesthetic, the doctor might close the wound with sutures, stitches or skin glue. A tetanus booster shot might be given if the individual has a puncture wound.

Pain medications might also be given as well as penicillin. Antibiotics are used if infection is present or there is high risk for developing one. In some instances, surgery might be required.

Upon leaving the doctor’s clinic, the wound might have bandages and dressings in place. When changing them, always wash hands and work on a clean surface. Make sure that the wound is disinfected and dry before placing fresh dressing.

When to consult a doctor

Even though some open wounds can be managed at home, a doctor should be consulted if:

  • An open wound is deeper than ½ inch
  • Bleeding could not be controlled with direct pressure
  • Bleeding lasts longer than 20 minutes
  • Bleeding is due to a significant accident or injury

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on an open wound is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to provide proper wound care for an open wound, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.


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