Every child will, at some point, scrape a knee, cut a finger or break their skin open in some way. While more serious lacerations require medical attention, here are some basic tips for assisting in the healing of minor cuts and avoiding infection or irritation.
First aid for minor cuts and abrasions
- Before treating a child’s injuries it is important to first wash your own hands, covering any breaks in the skin with bandages or gloves.
- Generally speaking, shallow cuts and abrasions stop bleeding on their own. However, if bleeding persists, it may be necessary to physically stem the flow of blood by gently holding a sterile dressing to the wound and applying pressure.
- Gently, but thoroughly, cleanse the cut with fresh water, dabbing lightly with a clean cloth to dry. Stubborn debris can be removed using a damp cloth or sterile tweezers.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment (such as iodine) to kill any bacteria which may have gotten into the wound.
- Cover the cut with a sterile bandage, this stops germs from getting in and also protects the wound from further irritation. Any dressings should be kept dry, clean and be changed regularly.
- Monitor the injury to make sure it is healing properly. Redness, swelling, pus, pain or warmth may all be signs that the wound has become infected; this usually requires treatment with antibiotics by your doctor.
Deep lacerations or wounds may require more extensive treatment, including prolonged pressure, elevation of the affected body part and specialist medical attention. In the case of wide, deep or long wounds that will not stop bleeding, seek immediate medical assistance.
In the case of wounds that are particularly deep, open or have body tissue sticking out the doctor may be required to physically close the wound using a variety of methods. Adhesive butterfly strips are often sufficient to hold together small cuts. Gaping wounds may need cyanoacrylate glue, staples or stitches (sutures) to close them up properly.
Tetanus is a type of infection which causes severe, potentially fatal, muscle spasms; it is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani . The bacteria can infect deep cuts and wounds, thus it is recommended that a tetanus vaccination be given every 10 years. If a wound was caused by a dirty or rusty object (such as a nail or tin), gets dirty, or is particularly deep, and your last tetanus shot was not within the last 5 years, your doctor may suggest a booster.
Children’s Hospital Colorado, 2016, Skin Injury, Last accessed 03 November 2016, <https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/conditions-and-symptoms/symptoms/cut-scrape-or-bruise/>.
Mayo Clinic 2009, ‘Cuts and scrapes: First aid’, retrieved 6 September 2011, <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-cuts/FA00042>.
St. John Ambulance, 2016, Cuts and grazes, Last accessed 03 November 2016, <http://www.sja.org.uk/sja/first-aid-advice/bleeding/cuts-and-grazes.aspx>.