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 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:

1. Reassure the person.

2. Continue to control bleeding with direct pressure.

1. Clean thoroughly

  • Do not squeeze the wound.

  • Soak the wound in warm, soapy water to help the injury heal from the inside out.

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

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.

Seek medical help if any of the following is true:

  • 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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