The glass slips from your hands and breaks when it hits the floor. You take off
to find your mom and you step on a sliver of glass. Ouch! Now you're bleeding.
Cuts, scratches, and abrasions are a part of growing up. Let's find out more about
Cuts: These are injuries to the skin caused by something sharp,
like a knife.
Scratches: These are slight injuries that happen when a sharp
object, like a fingernail or thorn, scrapes along your skin the way a pencil scrapes
Abrasions (say: uh-BRAY-zhunz): This is a scrape that happens
when the skin is rubbed away. For example, you might get a "rug burn" while wrestling
with your brother or a "board burn" if you wipe out on your skateboard when you weren't
How Do Cuts and Scratches Heal?
After getting a cut, scratch, or abrasion, your skin may start bleeding. This happens
because the injury breaks or tears the tiny blood vessels, which are right under
the skin's surface. Your body wants to stop the bleeding so the platelets
(say: PLAYT-litz) in your blood come to the rescue.
At the site of a wound (say: WOOND), which is another word for injury, platelets
stick together, like glue. This is called clotting, which works like a plug to keep
blood and other fluids from leaking out. A scab,
a hardened and dried clot, forms a crust over the wound. This protects the area so
the skin cells underneath can have time to heal.
Underneath the scab, new skin cells multiply to repair the wound. Damaged blood
vessels are repaired, and infection-fighting white blood cells attack
any germs that may have gotten into the wound. You can't see it under the scab, but
a new layer of skin is forming. And when the new skin is ready, the scab falls off.
A scab usually falls off within a week or two. If you pick at a scab, the new skin
underneath can be ripped and the wound will take longer to heal and may leave a scar. So try not to pick at scabs.
What Should I Do if I Get a Cut or Scratch?
Stop any bleeding by pressing a clean, soft cloth against the wound. If the wound
isn't very bad, the bleeding should stop in a few minutes. Then you'll want to clean
the wound, using warm water and a gentle soap.
You might want to get your mom, dad, or another adult to help you get cleaned up,
especially if the water doesn't get all the dirt or gravel out of the wound. A soft,
damp cloth can help remove these bits.
Most small cuts, scrapes, or abrasions will heal well without any special care.
For extra protection, your parent might use an antibacterial (say: an-tye-bak-TEER-ee-ul)
ointment or a bandage. The ointment will kill germs
and a bandage will keep your wound from getting irritated and prevent germs from
getting inside. If you use a bandage, it should be changed daily and when it gets
wet or dirty.
What if a Cut Won't Stop Bleeding?
If a wound is very long or deep or if its edges are far apart, then you may need
stitches. The doctor will
use some type of anesthetic (say: an-iss-THET-ik) on your skin to numb it (numb means
you won't be able to feel anything there for a while). This numbing medicine might
be applied directly or through a shot.
Then the doctor will suture (say: SOO-chur), or sew, the edges of the cut together
with a small needle and special thread.
For more minor cuts, the doctor might use a special kind of glue to close your
cut instead of stitches. This glue holds the sides of the cut together so the skin
can begin to heal. The glue will dissolve over time.
If you do get stitches, after the wound heals (in about a week) you will need to
go back to the doctor to get those stitches taken out. The doctor will just snip the
thread with scissors and gently pull out the threads. It feels funny but usually doesn't
hurt. Sometimes the doctor may use stitches that dissolve on their own over time and
don't need to be removed.
Sometimes, a small scar forms after stitches are removed. If you don't get the
proper care for a serious cut, a more noticeable scar may form.
When Should I Get Help From an Adult?
It's a good idea to always tell an adult if you get injured. You'll especially
want to tell a parent or another adult if you cut yourself on something dirty or rusty,
if you are bleeding, or if you get bitten or scratched (by an animal or a person!).
Bites and scratches may need special care because germs from the animal or person
might have gotten into the wound. The doctor might prescribe an antibiotic (say: an-tye-bye-AH-tik)
medicine to prevent infection. And if you were bitten or scratched by an animal, your
mom or dad will need to make sure the animal didn't have rabies, a dangerous virus.
Certain cuts or bites could develop into tetanus (say: TET-uh-niss), another serious
illness. Your parent will need to check your medical records and be sure that you
have had a tetanus shot recently.
Sometimes, a cut, scratch, or abrasion starts out as no big deal, but then gets
infected. An infection (say: in-FEK-shun) happens when there are too many germs for
your body's white blood cells and immune system to handle.
Infected wounds may hurt, look red and swollen, feel warm to touch, or contain
pus, which is a yellowish or greenish thick liquid. Infected wounds also can cause
a fever. If your cut, scratch, or abrasion looks infected, tell your parent. You may
need to see a doctor for antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
Luckily, most cuts, scratches, and abrasions will go away on their own, thanks
to your body's amazing ability to heal itself.