As a member of the CHPA OTC Safety Ambassador Program, I received compensation for this post but all opinions are my own and based on my family’s experiences.
We have an entire shelf devoted to different kinds of bandages in the medicine cabinet in our kids’ bathroom because they’re so prone to cuts and scrapes. Even though they love the chance to choose a fun bandage featuring a character or fun design that suits their mood, sometimes a wound needs more attention so it can heal properly. But how do you really know what kind of attention a cut needs? If you’re not sure, you’re not alone. According to OTCSafety.org, one of the most common questions parents ask pediatricians is how to know if a child needs stitches.
We’ve had two instances when it was very clear that our son (age 3 at the time) needed to visit the emergency room for stitches. One night, just before bedtime, he was running through the house on the way upstairs for a bath when he tripped, fell, and hit his head exactly on a sharp corner where two pieces of moulding met. After we figured out where the cut was and cleaned away some of the blood, we could tell it was deep and took him to the emergency room. About six months later, he was going up the stairs, slipped, and fell chin first. He hit the magical part of his chin on the hardwood floor and needed a few stitches. With such deep cuts, it was easy to tell that our son needed stitches.
According to OTCSafety.org, we did the right thing by taking him to the emergency room.
If a cut is large or very deep, stitches may be needed. Your child’s wound should be evaluated as soon as possible, ideally within a few hours to reduce the risk of infection and minimize scarring. Significant cuts that involve the hands, face, chest, abdomen or head may also affect future function and appearance or be indicative of other associated injury to deeper parts of the body. As a result, it is a good idea to have your child evaluated as soon as possible.
But sometimes it’s not so easy to tell how deep a cut is or what kind of medical attention is really best until you’re seen by a doctor.
Ever since I was five years old I’ve had a scar on my leg from a cut that I got while playing in the front yard and from time to time I wonder if I should have told my parents and gotten stitches. While the scar is faded over the years, I clearly remember tripping in the yard and my ankle bleeding. But at the time it just seemed a little deeper than a normal cut. I also remember wanting to continue playing so I went inside, got some cotton and antiseptic to clean it, put a bandage on it, and went back outside. My wound never got infected but there probably would have been less of a scar (and far fewer bandages used for my cut that bled a lot!) if I had told my parents and gotten stitches.
According to OTCSafety.org, “minor cuts and scrapes can usually be treated at home. But sometimes a trip to the doctor or hospital is necessary. Proper care is important because it can reduce the risk of infection and ensures the wound heals quickly.
Follow these five simple steps to properly treat your child’s cut or scrape:
- If the wound is bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean bandage or towel until the bleeding stops.
- Check for glass, dirt or other foreign materials in the wound. Flush debris out with cool running water or use tweezers (cleaned with rubbing alcohol first) to carefully lift it out.
- Wash the wound with soap and water. Gently scrub out any dirt using a washcloth.
- After washing and drying the area, apply an antibiotic ointment, such as Polysporin or Bactracin to reduce the risk of an infection. Loosely cover the wound with a bandage.
- Don’t use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine or Mercurochrome directly on the wound. Doing so can cause your child more pain and may slow healing.
Travel First Aid Kit photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net