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.

Summer Safety: How to Treat Your Child’s Sunburn

Pool time and outdoor play may increase your child’s chance for developing sunburn. Here are some tips from the experts at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital on the best way to treat your child.

What causes sunburn?

Sunburn appears within 6 to 12 hours after the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Artificial light sources like sun lamps and tanning beds can also cause sunburns. The skin becomes red and painful, and swelling of the skin, tenderness and blisters can develop. Severe sunburn can also cause nausea, chills and malaise (“feeling sick”). The burned area remains red and painful for a few days. Later, peeling may occur as the skin heals.

What are the risks of sunburn?

Exposure to the sun can harm children even when they don’t get sunburn. Over the years, the effects of sun exposure build up and can lead to wrinkles, freckles, tough skin and even skin cancer later in life. Some medications and medical conditions can also make people more sensitive to sunlight. Since people get most of their sun exposure as children, it’s important to teach children sun safety early on so they can be protected from these problems in the future.

Sunlight contains both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause sunburn. However, UVA rays also cause damage in the long run, including skin cancer. Since tanning beds use UVA light, they aren’t healthy and should be avoided.

How is sunburn treated?

If your child has sunburn, he or she should stay out of the sun until the burn has healed completely. Once it’s healed, be sure your child is wearing sun protection, including sunscreen, before going out in the sun again.

You can control pain from sunburn by applying cool washcloths to the area. Over-the-counter sunburn sprays that contain numbing medications like benzocaine or lidocaine can help, although they may also cause irritation to the skin. You can give anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen by mouth to help with the pain. As the burn heals, apply a moisturizing lotion. Products that contain aloe vera can be helpful in soothing the skin.

How is sunburn prevented?

The sun doesn’t need to be shining brightly to be dangerous. Children can be exposed to UV rays even on foggy or hazy days, and exposure is greater at higher altitudes or when UV rays are reflected off of water, snow, sand, or other surfaces. UV rays are strongest when the sun is the most intense, so try to keep your child out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. Infants and young children can quickly develop serious sunburns.

Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Check the label to make sure the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Since no sunscreen is waterproof, you may need to reapply sunscreen more frequently if your child is spending lots of time in the water.

Appropriate clothing is also important for sun protection, such as wide-brimmed hats and lightweight cotton clothes with long sleeves and pants.

Keep babies under six months of age out of the sun and in the shade as much as possible. Avoid sunscreen in babies less than six months old.

For more information, visit umm.edu/childrens.

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