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Facial injuries

6-minute read

What are facial injuries?

A facial injury can include:

What causes facial injuries?

An injury to the face can be caused by almost anything, such as:

  • falling over
  • cutting yourself shaving
  • being struck in the face by an object, such as a ball or twig
  • being assaulted or hit

When should I call an ambulance/go to the emergency department?

Some facial injuries need urgent medical treatment.

See your doctor or go to your nearest emergency department if the injury:

  • is a deep wound and the bleeding can’t be stopped
  • is a severe eye injury
  • affect the airways from blood going into the lungs, especially if the person is unconscious

If you are looking after someone with a head injury and they are pale, or have cold or clammy skin, or have fast or shallow breathing, or have a fast or weak pulse, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

First aid while you are waiting for the ambulance includes making sure the person has a clear airway, stopping the bleeding and preventing and reducing shock. For facial trauma, the person should be face-downward, whether laying, sitting or standing.

If there is an object, such as a knife, long shards of glass or a stick inside a wound, you must leave it where it is. Removing it could cause more damage or serious bleeding. Go to the nearest emergency department or call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. In the meantime, do the following:

  • If it is safe to do so, you should apply firm pressure around the sides of the embedded object and raise the injured area above the heart if this is possible.
  • Cover the wound, and the object if possible, in a sterile dressing.
  • Then stabilise the protruding object by surrounding it with thick layers of pads or dressings. Do not press down on or wriggle the object.
  • If possible, continue until the padding is higher than the object then apply a loose bandage over it. You may not be able to do this final step with long objects like sticks.

How are facial injuries treated?

If you have a facial injury, you can easily treat a minor wound or cut. However, a larger or deep wound or cut will need medical attention.

A large wound, which is gaping open, will need to be professionally closed. It may require stitches, glue or medical sticky tape.

If you have a minor injury on your face, the following advice may help:

  • Wash the injured area thoroughly but gently. If there is anything in the cut or graze, such as gravel, try to remove as much as you can but do it gently. It is important to get as much debris out as possible to avoid getting an infection. Pat the area dry with a clean cloth.
  • Try to let the air get to it. Leave the cut or graze open unless there is pus, discharge or blood coming from it.
  • If the injury is likely to get dirty or you are going somewhere that may have lots of dirt or dust in the air, cover the injury with a plaster or sterile dressing.
  • If the plaster or dressing gets wet or your injury leaks through it, change the dressing regularly until the wound has healed.
  • If you have not had a full course of tetanus immunisation or if your boosters are not up to date contact your doctor.
  • Check the wound daily. You should look out for increasing redness, swelling, pain, or yellow discharge, as these are signs of a possible infection.

If you’re not sure what to do, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

If you have a wound or cut, here is first aid advice:

  • Use a clean cloth or gauze and apply direct pressure to the wound. If you do not have anything available, use your fingers until a sterile dressing is available. Be very careful if you think a bone may be broken.
  • If the bleeding is very heavy, it may seep through the dressing. You should use a second dressing to cover the first one.
  • If the bleeding continues through both dressings and pads, remove the second bandage only and apply a new one.
  • If the wound is not bleeding bathe with clean water.
  • Pat dry with a clean cloth, then cover the wound with a dry, sterile, non-sticky dressing to help prevent infection.

A bleeding or cut tongue

A cut on your tongue may bleed a lot. This may make you think your injury is worse than it really is. Usually a cut on your tongue will heal quickly and not cause you any problems.

To treat a small cut on your tongue, rinse your mouth with salt water to help keep it clean. If it won’t stop bleeding, firmly press the injury with gauze or a piece of clean cloth then see you doctor or go to the nearest emergency department.

If you smoke, you should avoid smoking for as long as possible. Try not to smoke while the cut is fresh.

Bruising

Hold an ice pack over the bruise to reduce swelling. A frozen bag of peas wrapped in a tea towel makes a good ice pack. Do not put ice directly on the skin. The bag of peas can be repeatedly re-frozen but you must not then eat the re-frozen peas.

The swelling should go down quickly, leaving just the bruising. If the swelling stays then speak to your doctor.

Nosebleed

If you have a facial injury that means you cannot put pressure on your nose to stop the bleeding, go to your nearest emergency department. You should avoid any strenuous activity, such as playing sports, for 24 hours after the bleeding has stopped.

Deliberate injury

If you were assaulted or hit by another person, or suspect that the facial injuries of someone close to you were caused deliberately and were not the result of an accident, you should seek help from a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Talk to your doctor, community nurse, emergency department or school nurse.

If you are unsure who to speak to, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to discuss your concerns with a registered nurse.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2019


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