Treating Cuts and Scrapes
Kids are naturally playful and curious. Despite the best safety precautions, just about every child ends up with wounds. Abrasions are scrapes caused when the outer layers of the skin are torn away. There is usually only minor bleeding, but the area may be very dirty or be imbedded with dirt or small stones (such as when scraping the knees or elbows during a fall from a bike). Cuts are caused by contact with sharp objects, such as a knife, razor, or broken glass. The amount of bleeding associated with a cut varies, depending upon the length and depth of the wound. A laceration is a jagged or irregular cut or tear of the skin. Lacerations tend to be more serious than cuts and sometimes cause serious bleeding. Puncture wounds are caused when an object pierces the skin, causing a small hole (such as stepping on a nail or piece of glass). The wounds may be superficial or deep. Burns are thermal injuries to the skin caused by exposure to hot liquids, fire, household chemicals, or the sun.
Wounds are very traumatic for a child. Even a tiny cut can cause significant anxiety. First, try to assess the extent of the injury. Often, the wound is minor and can be treated with some simple steps. Wash your own hands first to prevent the spread of germs. Then, cleanse the wound, flushing with lots of clean water to rinse out any debris. Gently scrub the area with warm soap and water. Don't forget to also clean the area around the site to wash away dirt and oils that could contaminate the wound. Finally, cover the wound with some type of dressing. Wounds should remain covered for 24 to 48 hours to protect the area and reduce the risk of infection. A covered wound is also less likely to develop a scab that can lead to a scar. If you are unable to properly clean a wound (because of a large amount of imbedded debris), or the child has a laceration, deep wound, or excessive bleeding, emergency help should be sought. Also seek medical care if the child develops signs of infection, such as pus, redness, tenderness, or a fever.
Choosing a Bandage
Wound covering used to be relatively simple. In most instances, parents pulled a bandage from the box and placed it over the "boo boo." Larger wounds could be covered with gauze and tape. Now, however, a trip down the first-aid aisle of the store or pharmacy yields quite a variety of bandage choices. The standard bandage is still there, but it's now accompanied by products that are flexible, waterproof, clear-colored, or heavy duty. Some bandages are designed to be used on specific areas of the body, such as the fingers or knuckles. Some are coated with antibiotics, antibacterials, or pain and itch medication. And one of the newest bandage innovations is the liquid bandage.
Bandage selection is mostly one of personal choice (the most important thing is to keep a wound covered and clean). Active children who will be swimming or playing around water may be better off with a waterproof bandage that won't come off in the water. Liquid bandages are also a nice (but expensive) option. They cover and seal the wound and are reportedly waterproof. Anti-itch/pain bandages may help take some of the pain away from the wound. There is no scientific proof that antibiotic or antibacterial bandages are better than regular bandages. But the extra bit of medication may reduce the risk of contamination or infection – and buy some peace of mind. You can get the same effect by applying a light coat of an over-the-counter antibiotic cream over the wound before placing a regular bandage on the site.
Treating Cuts and Scrapes