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Wound Care 101

Teach Kids about FIRST AID so they understand the value and what to do.

Cuts, scratches, and abrasions are a part of growing up. Let's find out more about them:

  • Cuts: These are injuries to the skin caused by something sharp, like a knife.

  • Scratches: These are slight injuries that happen when a sharp object, like a fingernail or thorn, scrapes along your skin the way a pencil scrapes across paper.

  • Abrasions: This is a scrape that happens when the skin is rubbed away. For example, you might get a "rug burn" while wrestling with your brother or a "board burn" if you wipe out on your skateboard when you weren't wearing kneepads.

How Do Cuts and Scratches Heal?

After getting a cut, scratch, or abrasion, your skin may start bleeding. This happens because the injury breaks or tears the tiny blood vessels, which are right under the skin's surface. Your body wants to stop the bleeding so the platelets (say: PLAYT-litz) in your blood come to the rescue. At the site of a wound (say: WOOND), which is another word for injury, platelets stick together, like glue. This is called clotting, which works like a plug to keep blood and other fluids from leaking out. A scab, a hardened and dried clot, forms a crust over the wound. This protects the area so the skin cells underneath can have time to heal.

Underneath the scab, new skin cells multiply to repair the wound. Damaged blood vessels are repaired, and infection-fighting white blood cells attack any germs that may have gotten into the wound. You can't see it under the scab, but a new layer of skin is forming. And when the new skin is ready, the scab falls off.

A scab usually falls off within a week or two. If you pick at a scab, the new skin underneath can be ripped and the wound will take longer to heal and may leave a scar. So try not to pick at scabs.

What Should be Done if the Child Gets Cuts or Scratches?

Stop any bleeding by pressing a clean, soft cloth against the wound. If the wound isn't very bad, the bleeding should stop in a few minutes. Then you'll want to clean the wound, using warm water and a gentle soap.

An adult (like mom or dad) need to help the child get cleaned up, especially if the water doesn't get all the dirt or gravel out of the wound. A soft, damp cloth can help remove these bits.

For extra protection, your parents should use Mupiricin (Antibacterial Ointment). The ointment will kill germs and a bandage will keep the wound from getting irritated and prevent germs from getting inside. If you use a bandage, it should be changed daily and when it gets wet or dirty.

What if a Cut Won't Stop Bleeding?

If a wound is very long or deep or if its edges are far apart, then the child may need stitches. The doctor will use some type of anesthetic on the skin to numb it.  This numbing medicine might be applied directly or through a shot.

Then the doctor will suture (say: SOO-chur), or sew, the edges of the cut together with a small needle and special thread.

For more minor cuts, the doctor might use a special kind of glue to close the cut instead of stitches. This glue holds the sides of the cut together so the skin can begin to heal. The glue will dissolve over time.

If the child does get stitches, after the wound heals (in about a week) the child will need to go back to the doctor to get those stitches taken out. The doctor will just snip the thread with scissors and gently pull out the threads. It feels funny but usually doesn't hurt. Sometimes the doctor may use stitches that dissolve on their own over time and don't need to be removed.

Sometimes, a small scar forms after stitches are removed. If the child doesn't get the proper care for a serious cut, a more noticeable scar may form.

When Should the Child Get Help From an Adult?

It's a good idea to always remind kids that they need to tell an adult (parent or caregiver) when they get injured. They'll especially want to tell a parent or another adult if the child cuts him/herself on something dirty or rusty, if he or she is bleeding, or if she gets bitten or scratched (by an animal or a person!).

Bites and scratches may need special care because germs from the animal or person might have gotten into the wound. The doctor might prescribe an oral antibiotic medicine to prevent infection. And if the child was bitten or scratched by an animal, the mom or dad will need to make sure the animal didn't have rabies, a dangerous virus.

Certain cuts or bites could develop into tetanus, another serious illness. The parent will need to check the child's medical records and be sure that the child has had a tetanus shot recently.

Sometimes, a cut, scratch, or abrasion starts out as no big deal, but then gets infected. An infection happens when there are too many germs for the body's white blood cells and immune system to handle.

Infected wounds may hurt, look red and swollen, feel warm to touch, or contain pus, which is a yellowish or greenish thick liquid. Infected wounds also can cause a fever. If the cut, scratch, or abrasion looks infected, the child always has to tell the parent or caregiver. Again, they will need to see a doctor for antibiotics to get rid of the infection.

Reference: Kids Health Org