Treating Kid’s Scrapes and Cuts

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The boy shouted over to his mother, “Hey Mom! Watch me do this trick.” The boy proceeds to attempt to jump the curb on his skateboard. However, the edge of the skateboard catches the curb and the boy is propelled onto the sidewalk, landing on his knees. When he stands up, his scraped knees are starting to bleed. The mother rushes over quickly to help her son.

Summer is a time for children to play outside and inevitably get scrapes and cuts along the way. The key for parents is to not overreact to an injury. Children often feed off their parents’ anxieties in addition to any pain the injury is causing. Rather parents should react calmly and address the cut or scrape in a methodical manner.

The first step is to try and clean the scrape or cut if the bleeding is minimal. Parents should use cool water running over the cut to help remove any dirt or other debris that might have been embedded. There is no need to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or rubbing alcohol as that can just irritate the wound.

Once the cut is clean, apply pressure to it with a clean cloth or gauze. The pressure should be applied for five to ten minutes as this allows the bleeding to stop. Parents may be tempted to sneak a peek at the cut before the five minutes are up but they should resist as that can cause the wound to start bleeding again.

As the bleeding stops, parents should apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to the cut. This will keep cuts and scrapes clean and minimize any infections or scarring. Finally, a clean bandage should be used that covers the whole wound. The bandage should be changed at least once a day or more often if the wound is still oozing. Parents should keep an eye on the wound to make sure there is no redness, swelling, or pus around the wound. If so, these are signs of infection and the child’s doctor should be contacted.

There are some cuts and scrapes that are more serious and need to be looked at by a doctor. A doctor should be seen if a cut is deeper than a ½ inch as cuts that deep can damage underlying muscles, tendons, and nerves. Also a doctor should be involved if cuts are jagged or gape open. These will likely require stitches to fully heal and minimize scarring. Other types of cuts or scrapes that would require seeing a doctor include, debris in a wound that can’t be washed out, wound to the face, and a wound caused by an animal or human bite. If any of the above situations occur, then children should be seen by their doctor as soon as possible to maximize healing.

Minor cuts and scrapes are common in children particularly in the summer. Parents need to remain calm when these occur. Clean the wound, apply pressure, and then put on antiseptic ointment and a bandage. Before you know it, the child will be back outside trying his next skateboard trick.

This article was published in the Richmond Register Health Beat Magazine in June 2014.

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