Minor Cuts and Scrapes

Proper Treatment for Skinned Knees and Elbows

mother putting band aid on daughter
TLC is the most important skill in treating minor cuts and scratches. Andersen Ross/Getty Images

Every parent needs to know how to treat the battle wounds of the playground. Skinned elbows, splinters, and cut fingers all require some sort of assistance. Basically, if it's anything worse than a bruised ego, mom (and sometimes dad) will be called upon to prepare a field dressing.

If it's bad enough to warrant stitches, I wouldn't technically consider it minor anymore. That's a bona fide surgical wound worthy of a trip to the doctor followed by a post-suture trip to the ice cream shop (and a few bragging points in class tomorrow).

Besides needing stitches, other reasons to call the doctor includes if the injury is from an animal or human bite, or if the injury feels numb and tingly.

For the basic booboo, a little TLC should be enough to get your cowboy back in the saddle.

Clean It

So, as much as your wee one doesn't want you to, the first step is always to clean the wound. There's no need to get fancy here. Some of the best trauma centers in the country use plain ol' tap water to rinse cuts, which is what I recommend.

My mom liked to use hydrogen peroxide. There's no reason to do that. If it's particularly grimy, a tiny bit of soap and a clean washcloth might be necessary to get all the dirt out.

If you can't get all the dirt or debris out, you might have to see a healthcare provider.

Stop the Bleeding

I'm assuming we aren't talking about major bleeding here. If we were, you should be controlling the bleeding immediately.

If it's spurting red blood, call 911.

A small amount of bleeding is actually beneficial. The blood oozing out helps to flush dirt and contamination away. However, once the wound is clean, bleeding should be stopped. With a very small wound, bleeding will usually stop all by itself. If it doesn't, you can help.

To stop the bleeding, hold pressure directly on the wound with a bandage or gauze for several minutes. Don't keep looking to see if it has stopped. Every time you lift the gauze or dressing, you can break the clot and start the bleeding all over again.

Cover It

Once the wound is clean and the bleeding has stopped, cover it loosely with an adhesive bandage. Whether or not you should use an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin depends on whom you talk to. It's not necessary and it's fine if you don't use any ointment.

If you do use an ointment, keep an eye on the wound for redness and swelling. Allergic reactions are common to topical antibiotics.

When to Get the Doctor Involved

Keep an eye on the wound for a few days to look for signs of infection. If it begins to swell, ooze pus, develop redness, or get hot to the touch, call the doctor.

If it's a pretty deep cut and it's been more than 5 years since the last tetanus shot, it's time to get another. Therefore, call the doctor.

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