Skin Trauma (Cuts, Scrapes, Bruises

Injury Definition

  • Cuts, lacerations, gashes and tears
  • Scrapes, abrasions, scratches and floor burns
  • Bruises (bleeding into the skin) without an overlying cut or abrasion
  • When sutures (stitches) are needed: Any cut that is split open or gaping probably needs sutures. Cuts longer than 1/2 inch (1 cm) usually need sutures. On the face, cuts longer than 1/4 inch (6 mm) need sutures. Any open wound that may need sutures should be checked and closed within 6 hours if possible

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Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

  • Major bleeding that can’t be stopped
  • First Aid: Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a clean cloth

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Bleeding won’t stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Cut is very deep (e.g. can see bone or tendons)
  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Age < 1 year old
  • Dirt or grime in the wound is not removed after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Bicycle-spoke or washing machine ‘wringer’ injury
  • Skin loss from bad scrape goes very deep
  • Skin loss involves > 10% of body surface (Note: the hand’s surface equals 1%)
  • Cut or scrape looks infected (redness, red streak or pus)

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Several bruises occur without any known injury
  • Very large bruise follows a minor injury
  • No tetanus booster in > 10 years (5 years for dirty cuts at higher risk for tetanus)

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Mild cut, scrape or bruise and you don’t think your child needs to be seen

Home Care Advice for Mild Bruises, Cuts and Scrapes

  1. Bruises:
    • Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes once to stop the bleeding.
    • After 48 hours apply a warm wash cloth for 10 minutes 3 times per day to help reabsorb the blood.
  2. Cuts, Scratches and Scrapes (abrasions)
    • Apply direct pressure for 10 minutes to stop any bleeding.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes. (Caution: never soak a wound that might need sutures, because it may become more swollen and difficult to close.)
    • For any dirt, scrub it gently with a washcloth.
    • Cut off any pieces of loose skin using a fine scissors (cleaned with rubbing alcohol).
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment, covered by a Band-Aid or dressing. Change daily.
  3. Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed for pain relief.
  4. Call Your Doctor If
    • Looks infected (pus, redness, increasing tenderness)
    • Doesn’t heal within 10 days
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the “Call Your Doctor” symptoms