Lacerations, Cuts and scrapes – welcome to summer!
I’m not sure about your kids, but as soon as the snow starts to melt mine are begging to go outside and play on the swings and slides. Since everything is still a bit wet, soggy and thrilling, this is perhaps the riskiest time of year. Maybe it’s the pent up energy from a long winter inside. Maybe they don’t realize how much they’ve grown and how awkward they are on the play structures. All I know is that when spring arrives I am cleaning wounds and dressing cuts till the snow comes again.
What is a laceration?
A laceration is a cut in the skin. It can be shallow or deep, straight or jagged. Many cuts just require a simple cleaning and dressing, while others need a lot more work to keep them from getting infected and to help promote a nice healing. The trick is to know which is which.
What to do at home
- Apply firm pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding – use gauze, a towel, a tissue – whatever you have available. Apply steady pressure for at least 5 minutes.
- Clean the wound gently under running water and use soap as your child allows.
- Remove any foreign material or dirt. If you are unable to, please see a doctor. This step is paramount to prevent infection.
- Dress the wound – it is generally unnecessary to use an antibiotic ointment if you performed the cleaning step well. But if you want, you can apply some, and then cover with a bandage or gauze and medical tape.
- If the wound is not amenable to closure at home, continue to apply pressure and have your child seen by a physician.
When should you see your doc or go to the hospital?
• If bleeding is persistent and doesn’t stop within a few minutes of pressure
• If the wound looks deep and gaping
• If the cut is very dirty or you think there is a foreign body in the wound
• If you see pus, redness and there is significant tenderness
• If your child has not had a recent tetanus vaccination – tetanus can cause a nasty infection in the wound
• If you suspect a broken bone
• If your child lost consciousness as a result of a fall
• If your child has a bleeding disorder
• If you think the cut needs to be closed by glue, stitches or staples.
• If the cut is from an animal bite
If you think the wound needs to be closed by a physician, please see someone within a few hours. The longer you wait the harder to close the skin nicely and the higher the risk for infection. To read more about types of closures, click here.
Get used to it – once your kids start running and jumping this spring, they’ll have months ahead and endless opportunities for scrapes, cuts and minor injuries!
Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.