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First Aid

Dealing With Cuts

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Most small cuts don't present any danger to kids. But larger cuts often require immediate medical treatment. Depending on the type of wound and its location, occasionally there is a risk of damage to tendons and nerves.

Cuts Instruction Sheet

What to Do:

For Minor Bleeding From a Small Cut or Abrasion (Scrape):

  • Rinse the wound thoroughly with water to clean out dirt and debris.
  • Then wash the wound with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly. (For minor wounds, it isn't necessary to use an antiseptic solution to prevent infection, and some can cause allergic skin reactions.)
  • Cover the wound with a sterile adhesive bandage or sterile gauze and adhesive tape.
  • Examine the wound daily. If the bandage gets wet, remove it and apply a new one. After the wound forms a scab, a bandage is no longer necessary.
  • Call your doctor if the wound is red, swollen, tender, warm, or draining pus.

For Bleeding From a Large Cut or Laceration:

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with water. This will allow you to see the wound clearly and assess its size.
  • Place a piece of sterile gauze or a clean cloth over the entire wound. If available, use clean latex or rubber gloves to protect yourself from exposure to possible infection from the blood of a child who isn't your own. If you can, raise the bleeding body part above the level of the child's heart. Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Using the palm of your hand on the gauze or cloth, apply steady, direct pressure to the wound for 5 minutes. (During the 5 minutes, do not stop to check the wound or remove blood clots that may form on the gauze.)
  • If blood soaks through the gauze, do not remove it. Apply another gauze pad on top and continue applying pressure.
  • Call your doctor or seek immediate medical attention for all large cuts or lacerations, or if:
    • you're unable to stop the bleeding after 5 minutes of pressure, or if the wound begins bleeding again (continue applying pressure until help arrives)
    • you're unable to clean out dirt and debris thoroughly, or there's something else stuck in the wound
    • the wound is on the child's face or neck
    • the injury was caused by an animal or human bite, burn, electrical injury, or puncture wound (e.g., a nail)
    • the cut is more than half an inch long or appears to be deep — large or deep wounds can result in nerve or tendon damage

If you have any doubt about whether stitches are needed, call your doctor.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2010

License

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995–2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.

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