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The Best Way to Treat Your Kids Cuts and Scrapes

Parent bandaging boy's scrapped knee

Temperatures are rising, snow is melting, and summer is coming, yay! Our kids will be out of school, outside playing, exploring, and hopefully away from the computer screens.

With warmer weather outside, we often see an increase in cuts and scrapes. Skin is the body’s largest organ, so taking care of cuts and scrapes is important! Properly treating cuts or abrasions can help prevent infection or scarring. Here are a few reminders to help parents treat these common injuries.

Treating a Cut or Scrape at Home

First, apply direct pressure with clean gauze or cloth for 5 to 10 minutes to stop bleeding from most small cuts or scrapes. Most kids (and their parents) have difficulty maintaining pressure for a full 5 minutes without taking a peek, but it is important not to check too soon. Sneak peeks interrupt pressure prolonging the time it takes for the bleeding to stop.

After the bleeding stops, gently clean the wound with warm water and a gentle cleanser to clean all dirt or debris away. Sitting still while a parent cleans a cut can prove challenging for younger kids, but it is important to take the time necessary to make sure it’s clean. If your child is squirming around, try putting them in a warm bath. This change of environment may be enough of a distraction to make it easier to clean the cut. You don’t have to use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol to clean a wound properly but cleansing the skin is essential to reduce the risk of infection.

After the cut or scrape is thoroughly cleaned, apply antibacterial ointment to keep it moist and cover it with a bandage until it scabs over or heals. This will typically take a few days. Be sure to switch the dressing daily and reapply ointment.

When Does it Need Stitches?

Sometimes wounds require stitches. Knowing what that looks like and promptly responding is essential. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Cuts that won’t stop bleeding.
  • Wide-open cuts with dark red muscle or yellowish fat visible should be closed with stitches, even small ones.
  • Cuts that are deep, gaping, or in a cosmetically sensitive area.
  • If anything foreign is embedded in the wound that you can’t remove by cleaning the wound, get treatment in an emergency room or urgent care.

Don’t wait – the sooner you get it treated, the better. If you are not sure about taking your child to the emergency room, call your pediatrician. They may be able to help you decide the best treatment option by phone.

When it Doesn’t Need Stitches, But Needs More Than Home Care

  • Sometimes minor cuts that are not gaping don’t need stitches, but they could benefit from steri-strips or medical glue.
  • Gaping cuts that are more than ½ inch long should be closed. If you aren’t sure how long they are, pull out a ruler and measure. Minor cuts might not require closure, but it is best to have them checked out by a professional if they are gaping.
  • If you decide your child’s wound requires medical assistance, you should still clean away any dirt and cover it with gauze or cloth and tape to help suppress the bleeding until you arrive at the medical center.

Healing

While cuts heal, it’s common for them to appear swollen or red, and painful. These are signs that the body’s immune system is actively protecting the wound from infection.

As the scar heals and a scab forms, it can feel itchy or painful. Curious kids sometimes want to pick at it, but don’t let them. Scabs protect the skin underneath and help skin heal by forming new tissue. Picking at the scab delays healing and increases the likelihood of scarring. Eventually, it will dry up and fall off naturally.

Infection

Some cuts and scrapes still get infected even after proper cleaning and antibacterial ointment. Here are a few signs to watch for:

  • Redness that expands around the wound
  • Yellow or green pus or cloudy wound drainage
  • Red streaks spreading from the wound
  • Swelling, pain, or tenderness around the wound that increases versus lessens
  • Fever

See your pediatrician for treatment if your child has any of these symptoms.

Scarring

Human skin is remarkably capable of healing, but sometimes cuts leave scars. Here are a few ways to minimize or prevent scarring.

Sun protection: The sun can permanently discolor skin damaged by a cut or scrape. This darkening of the scar, called “hyperpigmentation.” Cover them up for six months to one year after injury with clothing or a bandage. Avoid using sunscreen during initial healing. After two or three weeks, it’s okay to use sunscreen on areas that are hard to cover.

Scar massage: Massaging scars may soften and flatten them more quickly. Use your fingers and apply medium pressure to massage the scar in circles. Your pediatrician can show you how.

Silicone sheets or gels: You can also apply silicone sheets or gels for at least 12 hours a day to help soften, flatten and improve the coloration of a scar. Most pharmacies carry these sheets or gels, but they are also available online. Ask your pediatrician for recommendations.

Build Your First Aid Kit

Kids fall, and cuts and scrapes are common, so it’s a good idea to have a basic first aid kit ready for these situations. Make gathering the gear a family activity so that your kids are already familiar with each step of the treatment before the injury occurs. It is far easier to explain how you will treat a cut or scrape when they aren’t hurting and can listen. This advanced prep work can reduce anxiety for both of you during the process.

Here are the recommended kit basics:

  • Bandages in several shapes and sizes
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Gauze to clean with and apply pressure
  • Non-aspirin pain relievers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Follow the proper dosing for your child’s age and weight. Note: Aspirin is a blood thinner and should not be used.
  • Amusement! Sometimes a toy or a treat is an excellent distraction for an upset child while cleaning and bandaging the cut.

Young tissues are incredibly good at healing fast. With a bit of help from you to give them the best chance for healing, your kids can withstand cuts and scrapes and heal properly. If you have any questions about treating cuts or scrapes, we are here to help. Give us a call: (877) 745-0045

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