Cuts and Scrapes: What You Can Treat and When You Need a Doctor
If you have children, you're no stranger to life's little calamities. They come in the form of skinned knees, scraped elbows, and stubbed toes. Here are some guidelines to help you treat those little accidents and know when it is time to seek help.
Treating Minor Cuts and Scrapes Yourself
- If you are treating someone else's injury, wash your own hands with soap and water first.
- If the injury is bleeding, apply direct pressure for five minutes to stop any bleeding.
- Thoroughly wash the injured area with cool water and mild soap.
- Use of an antiseptic is optional. Avoid using alcohol because it is painful and not effective. Hydrogen peroxide kills some germs and cleans the wound, but it also damages healthy tissues if overused. Other antiseptics that might be worth using once include iodine complexes such as Betadine and benzalkonium chloride (Zephiran).
- Cover the wound with a light, adhesive bandage (such as Band-Aid or Telfa strip). For larger superficial wounds, you may wish to apply an antibiotic ointment before covering. Topical antibiotics, however, are not a substitute for cleaning with soap and water.
- Wash facial scrapes thoroughly to remove debris, treat with antiseptic or antibiotic cream, and leave unbandaged.
- Let a scab fall off by itself; picking it delays healing and may cause a scar.
When It's Time to See the Doctor
The following are types of injuries that require prompt medical attention.
- An injury that doesn't stop bleeding after five minutes of steady, firm pressure.
- A deep puncture wound (like that from stepping on a nail) or an injury that appears particularly deep or gaping.
- An injury that has foreign material embedded in it, such as glass, metal, or wood.
- Any cut resulting from an animal bite or a human bite.
- Any cut that shows signs of infection, such as swelling, increasing pain, bad smell, draining fluid, or fever.
Note: A child with a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, should see a doctor immediately if a wound is healing poorly.
First-aid Kit: No Home Should Be Without One
Here is what the National Safety Council recommends having in your home's first-aid kit.
- Adhesive bandage strips
- Roller gauze and gauze pads
- Self-adhering roller bandage
- Antibiotic ointment or antiseptic wipes
- Calamine lotion
- Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
- Aloe vera gel
- Non-aspirin pain relievers for children
- Aspirin or ibuprofen
- Medical tape
- Antibacterial hand wash
- Saline solution
- Syrup of ipecac ***Please note: On Nov. 3, 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement, “ Poison Treatment in the Home ,” recommending that syrup of ipecac no longer be used as a routine home treatment strategy; rather, it should be used only on the direct advice of a doctor or poison control center. The key reason for this policy change is that recent research has failed to show benefit for children who were treated with ipecac. Most emergency rooms have stopped using the drug in favor of the more effective activated charcoal. As well, research has shown that ipecac medication has been improperly administered by parents, and has been abused by people with eating disorders such as bulimia. Abuse of ipecac can lead to heart problems and even death.
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Red Cross
National Safety Council
Canadian Red Cross
Canada Safety Council
Last reviewed November 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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