If you cut off an entire limb, you might reconsider using the big knife

Dear Home-Ec 101,

How do I know if a cut is serious enough to go to the ER?


My knife skills need work

WinkIvy says:

This is a very good question. Many people question when an expensive trip to the ER is warranted, and when you can do for yourself at home. Now, neither Heather nor I are medical professionals and any advice we give should not be replaced by that of a medical professional. And void where prohibited by law. And other standard disclaimers.

Go to the ER immediately if:

  • The cut is jagged, has rough edges, or is very deep (you can see muscle or bone)
  • The cut bleeds in spurts (you may have hit an artery)
  • Your cut soaks through several bandages, or doesn’t stop bleeding after 10 minutes with direct pressure on the wound.
  • There is something embedded in the wound that cannot be removed.

Go to your doctor or a walk-in-clinic if:

  • You were cut by something dirty or rusty and you haven’t had a tetanus shot in the last ten years, or cannot remember when your last tetanus shot was.
  • Your wound shows signs of infection, like redness, swelling, numbness or oozing. Also, if you run a fever of 100 degrees fahrenheit, you may have an infection.

Most cuts can be taken care of at home. Make sure you clean it well and put an antibiotic ointment on it.


  1. Badbadivy on September 17, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    These are all great tips, thanks, commenters!

  2. Cindy on September 17, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Ivy, that’s great information that you have there! Bramble is right on the money too. Another thing to keep in mind is the location of the cut. Remember too that even though the bleeding can be controlled by direct pressure, you may still need to see a dr. If you have controlled the bleeding, and you are unsure of whether to go to the ER, at the very least, call your doctor. For a severe loss of blood, call an ambulance. For anything that can be controlled, have someone drive you to the ER. (I’m an EMT, and I’ve seen a few cuts and scrapes lately! Not all of them have required trips via ambulance to the ER.)

  3. Bramble on September 16, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    I would also like to add any time you lose feeling beyond the sight of the wound. I put a knife through my finger (yes all the way through. don’t open packages with knives.) and to this day have no feeling above the second knuckle.
    tip #2- go to a hospital that actually has a doctor qualified to fix the problem instead of putting a few stitches in and saying sorry no one here is qualified to fix the problem should’a gone to the big hospital.
    The good news is when you walk into an ER and say “I just put a knife through my hand” they usher you right in. No waiting 🙂

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