Dealing With Cuts

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.

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: September 2013