How to Treat a Cut on Your Finger

Accidents happen and it's not uncommon to cut yourself with a knife in the kitchen or while working on a project around the house. This is First Aid 101 and there are four easy steps you need to follow: Stop the bleeding, clean the wound, apply an antibiotic, and bandage it. 


First Aid 101

Sounds easy enough, right? Before you run off to the bathroom to fix yourself up, let's take a quick look at a few tips that will help along the way.

Of course, if the cut is deep enough, you may need to see a healthcare provider and stitches may be required. If this is the case, get the wound under control and head to an urgent care clinic or the emergency room. Only use the ER for emergencies ​or if urgent care is closed and you cannot wait.

When Do You Need Stitches?

If the cut goes through the skin and leaves a gaping wound, you will probably need stitches. This is particularly true if you can see fat or muscle. The Mayo Clinic recommends that in order to minimize scars and infection risk, the wound should be closed within a few hours.


Stop the Bleeding

An accidental cut can be minor or severe. The first step with either is to try to stop the bleeding. This will give you a clearer view of how deep the cut is:

  • Minor cuts and scrapes that are oozing a little blood usually don't require any bleeding control. They typically stop bleeding on their own, though you can apply pressure to help this. Your next step is to clean the wound.
  • If the bleeding is heavy, bright red, or spurting, then take steps to control bleeding. Applying pressure with clean gauze or a towel and elevating the wound should be your priorities.
  • If the finger is amputated, put pressure on it to control bleeding and follow the steps for treating an amputation. The amputated digit should be wrapped in moist gauze or a moist paper towel, sealed in a plastic bag and kept on ice. The most important part is to get medical help right away and that may require a 911 call.

If you are not the injured person, it's best to use protective gloves if they're available. Also, employing universal precautions like washing your hands before touching the wound can prevent infection and the spread of contagious diseases.


Clean the Wound

The next step is to clean the wound. This will help prevent infection and let you really see how deep the cut is. Here is what to do:

  • Rinse the cut under clear running water. 
  • Wash around the wound with soap. Antibacterial soap is not necessary, but try to keep soap out of the wound because it may irritate it. Also, if you can, avoid soap products with heavy perfumes as they might sting. 
  • If there is any dirt or other debris in the wound, clean a pair of tweezers with alcohol and use it to gently remove any particles you can see. If you can't get all of it, you might need a healthcare provider to do this.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that you should not use hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or any cleanser that contains iodine. These products may only irritate the injury more.


Use an Antibiotic Ointment

Antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin or Polysporin, is not necessary for the vast majority of minor cuts. However, if you'll be out in the dirt and grime, it may not be a bad idea. The ointment will not help the wound will not heal faster, but can prevent infection.

Never squeeze ointment directly onto the cut because you don't want to contaminate the container. Instead, put the ointment on a Q-tip or another clean, disposable surface like a tongue dispenser or small piece of clean gauze.


Apply a Bandage

Adhesive bandages protect the cut from contamination. They are not necessary for many minor cuts and scrapes unless there's a potential that it can get dirty or irritated.

When applying an adhesive bandage, never touch the pad. Peel off one side of the protective covering and attach it to the finger. Wrap the bandage around the finger and remove the other covering as you go.


Watch for Infection

After dressing a minor cut, watch for infection. Signs of infection include increased temperature or pain, redness, swelling, and oozing. If you notice any of these or anything else that seems abnormal, see your healthcare provider or go to an urgent care clinic as soon as possible.

Do You Need a Tetanus Shot?

If the wound is particularly deep and you have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years, it's a good idea to get one. See your healthcare provider as soon as possible to get a booster.

Keep the wound clean and replace the bandage at least once a day or whenever it gets dirty.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I have a small cut on my finger. How do I stop the bleeding?

    If it's a minor cut that oozes a small amount of blood, the cut should eventually stop bleeding on its own.

  • What should I do if I have a cut that will not stop bleeding?

    Apply firm pressure directly on the wound itself. Gauze is best for this purpose if you have it, but terrycloth towels or any other fabric will also work. If blood soaks through, add another layer; don't remove the dressing so the blood has a chance to clot. If the cut is deep, head to the hospital immediately.

  • What should I put on a cut?

    Most minor cuts don't need an antibiotic ointment, but applying one could help prevent infection. Ointments such as Neosporin or Polysporin will do the trick. When applying ointment, first put it on a Q-tip and lightly brush the cut with it.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • Fair Health. Emergency Care and Urgent Care. 2017.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. Cuts and Scrapes: First Aid. 2016.