About cuts and abrasions in children
An abrasion is a rub or tear on the surface of your skin.
A cut is when something sharp separates your skin.
Most children get cuts and abrasions. Young children often get them when they’re learning to walk and climb and they fall over or bump into things. Older children and teenagers often get cuts or abrasions playing sport and doing other kinds of physical activity.
Does your child need to see a doctor about cuts and abrasions?
You can treat most minor abrasions and cuts at home.
But if there’s blood spurting out of your child’s wound or there’s an object like a stick sticking out of it, apply firm pressure to the wound. Then call 000 for an ambulance or take your child to a hospital emergency department immediately.
You should also take your child to your GP or a hospital emergency department if the cut or abrasion is:
- large or deep and doesn’t stop bleeding, even when you apply firm pressure
- filled with dirt, rocks, wood or glass
- in a high-risk area like near the eyes
- caused by a human or animal bite.
You should also see a doctor if your child isn’t immunised against tetanus.
It’s important to have a home first aid kit. Your first aid kit should be organised, well stocked and close by. Make sure everyone in your family knows where it’s kept, and that everyone can get to it easily. You can buy first aid kits from your local pharmacy or from providers like St John Ambulance.
Treatment for cuts and abrasions
Start by checking the abrasion or cut:
- If the wound has blood spurting out of it, use a towel or something similar to put pressure on the wound. Seek medical help – go straight to your GP or a hospital emergency department or call 000. If the bleeding stops, rinse the wound with water and cover it with a dressing or bandage.
- If the wound has an object sticking out of it, don’t try to remove it. Put pressure around the wound with a towel or something similar, and seek medical help.
- If the wound isn’t bleeding or is bleeding only a small amount, treat your child’s cuts and abrasions at home using your home first aid kit, following the steps below.
Here’s how to treat cuts and abrasions at home:
- Try to calm your child and tell them you’ll help them.
- If the wound is bleeding, apply firm pressure with a clean cloth to control the bleeding. If the wound is still bleeding after 15 minutes, go to your GP or nearest hospital emergency department.
- Clean the wound once bleeding has stopped. Put the affected area under cool running water to remove any dirt or small rocks. Don’t scrub the wound.
- Use saline or a very diluted antiseptic solution to clean the wound. This might sting, but it’ll help prevent infection.
- Clean the surrounding skin with clean gauze or a hand towel soaked in warm water. Cotton wool can leave fibres in the wound, so it’s better not to use it.
- Always wipe away from the wound, rather than wiping towards it. This way, you’ll avoid getting any more dirt in the wound.
- Put a thin smear of plain moisturiser or petroleum jelly like Vaseline on it. Cover the wound with a sterile, non-stick dressing.
- Give your child some pain relief like paracetamol if they’re in pain or discomfort.
Over the next few days, it’s important to keep the wound clean and help it to heal:
- Wash, moisturise and change the dressing daily to help the crust heal.
- After 2-3 days, leave the wound open to the air.
- Avoid blowing on the wound because this can allow germs into the wound.
- When your child has a bath or shower, take off the dressing and let the water run over the wound.
- Remind your child not to pick at the crust. If the crust breaks, the healing process has to start all over again, and there’s an increased risk of infection and scarring. The crust will eventually fall off in the shower or bath.
In the days after the injury, it’s important to watch the wound for signs of infection. These signs include pain, swelling, warmth and pus. On children with lighter skin, the skin might also look red. On children with darker skin, the skin might also look brown, purple or grey. See your GP if you notice these signs, especially if the infected area looks like it’s getting bigger.