Summer Safety: How to Treat Your Child’s Cuts and Scrapes

More outdoor playtime usually brings more cuts and scrapes for kids. Here are some tips from the experts at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital on the best way to treat your child.

What’s the best way to treat a small cut or scrape?

If the wound is bleeding, keep the area elevated and apply pressure to the site with a clean cloth or gauze. Most minor wounds will stop bleeding in about 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to hold pressure until the bleeding stops.

After the bleeding stops, wash the wound with lots of water. Soaking the wound in water can be helpful if there is dirt or other debris in the wound. You can use mild soap to clean the wound but don’t use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide —they irritate the tissue in the wound, which causes pain.

After cleaning the wound, apply antibacterial ointment and cover it with a clean dressing.

How do I know if my child needs stitches?

Here are some examples of wounds that probably require stitches:

  • Cuts that go all the way through the skin
  • Cuts with visible fat (yellow) or muscle (dark red)
  • Cuts that are gaping open
  • Cuts longer than half an inch. Note that smaller cuts can often benefit from butterfly closures or skin glue

Your doctor can examine the wound and help decide the best way to close it.

What is the process for getting stitches?

Getting stitches can be scary for children, but there are many ways to make the experience easier. These include numbing the area, distracting and coaching the child, and giving medications to decrease the child’s anxiety or even help them sleep through the procedure.

There are two options for stitches: absorbable and non-absorbable sutures. Absorbable sutures don’t need to be removed. Non-absorbable sutures need to be removed; how long they stay in depends on where the wound is, so your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them taken out.

What other options will a doctor use to close a cut?

  • Skin glue is helpful for minor cuts. It is applied to the cut while the cut is held closed and allowed to dry. Skin glue is not as strong as stitches, so it is not good for cuts that are under tension from a nearby muscle. But when the cut can be appropriately closed with skin glue, the cosmetic result can be just as good as with stitches.
  • Butterfly closures are narrow adhesive strips that are placed across a cut to keep it closed. They are helpful for small cuts or areas over joints. They aren’t as strong as stitches and can fall off early. Stitches provide a strong closure for wounds and almost always stay in place until they are removed.
  • Staples are a fast way to close certain wounds. In children, they are used most often to close cuts on the scalp.

How soon does my child need to see their doctor for stitches?

While it’s ideal to close the wound as soon as possible after an injury, wounds up to 8 hours old can still be closed. Some wounds can be closed up to 24 hours after the injury.

How can I make my child’s scar less visible?

While your child’s skin won’t look exactly the same as it did before the injury, there are some steps you can take to make the scar less visible. Sunlight can make the scar turn dark, so protect the scar from the sun by covering it with a hat, clothing or sunscreen. You can also massage the scar or apply silicone scar sheets.

For more information, visit umm.edu/childrens.

To make an appointment at one of our locations, call 410-328-6749.

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