10 Conditions the ER Can't Help You With

Minor Cuts and Scrapes
OK, this guy might end up with a cut that needs emergency attention. © danilobiancalana/iStock/Thinkstock

More than 7 million people will visit an ER seeking treatment for a cut this year [source: Hines et al.]. But most cuts and scrapes are considered minor — minor enough not to need lifesaving help. Small lacerations like the ones we've all gotten after a kitchen knife mishap or a tool slips while we're using it, for example, can be treated at home without any cause for alarm and without a trip to the hospital. At-home care for minor cuts includes just three basic first aid steps: Wash the wound to prevent infection, apply pressure to control the bleeding and then protect the injury by covering it with a bandage.

Any cut that won't stop bleeding after about 10 minutes, or any puncture wound more than a quarter of an inch deep, is no longer considered minor and should be treated by a health care professional — although probably still not in the ER. Urgent care centers are equipped to handle treatment for lacerations and scrapes that are more serious. Treatment may include a thorough cleaning of the area and local anesthetic to numb the area and block the pain, in addition to stitches or medical-grade glue to help stop bleeding and close the wound. In some cases, you may need a tetanus shot or antibiotics to avoid infection.