How to care for a child’s wound

How to care for a child's wound

If you have children or are around them often, you know that they have a tendency to get hurt while playing even the simplest of games. From a rug burn to a splinter, injuries are a normal part of most children’s growing up years.

But even basic injuries require first aid. If you are supervising a child that comes to you with a broken skin injury, such as a scratch, cut, bite, splinter, scrape, or other abrasion, follow these steps to provide adequate care.

  1. Reassure the child. Sometimes the sight of blood or a foreign body (like a splinter or dirt) can frighten young children. With a hug and soothing words let them know that everything will be okay. Keep calm and don’t fuss more than is necessary, as a child often takes cues from the adult in charge. If the injury requires professional medical treatment, explain to the child what will happen, and accompany him or her if possible.
  2. Wash the wound. Use warm (not hot) tap water and a clean cloth or paper towel to gently remove debris and blood. Pat the wound if the child squirms under applied pressure. If it bleeds a lot, though, you will need to fold and place a clean cloth over the injury. Don’t attempt to remove broken glass or tend a deep cut; call the doctor or take your child to the hospital emergency room instead.
  3. Dry the wound carefully. Avoid causing further tearing or scraping of the skin. Patting gently works well for most surface injuries.
  4. Apply a thin dab of antibiotic ointment. Use the over the counter type after checking its expiration date. Do not give the child any prescription antibiotics that are used by other family members or children. If the wound is deep or if an animal bite caused the injury, call the doctor to ask for advice. You may need to secure the animal that bit your child so that it can be checked for rabies or other infectious diseases.
  5. Cover the injury with a bandage. Make sure it is large enough to enclose the entire area or use two if needed. Secure it firmly and change it once or twice daily until the wound forms a scab. This will help keep the wound clean, which promotes rapid healing. It also will prevent the child from picking at the injury, which can lead to infection and delay healing.
  6. For injuries that cause damage to skin that isn’t broken, such as a burn or blister, contact your doctor to see what should be done. Burns can be classified as first, second, or third-degree injuries, and blisters, if broken, may lead to infection.

The general principle is to notify your doctor of any injury you are not sure of and to keep your child’s immunizations, including tetanus boosters, up to date. Remember to keep the wound clean. Even if the injury remains bandaged, children often return to playing in dirt or sand, or with animals, risking irritation of the area if the bandage comes off or is loosened.

Check the wound each day to be sure it is healing. Contact your doctor immediately if redness or a red streak appears in or near the wound, if the child develops a fever, or if he or she complains of a stiff neck or jaw.

A simple injury may not seem like much, and with proper care, it will usually heal quickly on its own with help from the body’s defenses. But prompt attention and ongoing cleanliness are needed to help your child’s body do its job.

A simple injury

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