Dealing With Cuts
en español: Cómo afrontar los cortes
Getting a cut from time to time is part of being a kid. Luckily, most cuts are small and can be cared for at home. But some cuts might need medical care.
What to Do:
Some cuts need care right away. Call 911 for cuts that:
- have heavy bleeding (soaking through bandages) or are spurting blood
- happened with a severe head or neck injury
Call your doctor or take your child for medical care if:
- You can't stop the bleeding after 15-20 minutes of pressure (keep putting pressure on the cut until your child gets help).
- Dirt, debris or something else is stuck in the wound.
- The cut is on the child's face, ear, or neck.
- The cut was caused by an animal or human bite, a burn, electrical injury, or puncture wound (like a nail).
- The cut is more than half an inch long or appears to be deep. Large or deep wounds should be checked for nerve or tendon injury.
- You think the cut needs stitches; for example, if the cut is gaping open or you can see yellow fat under the skin or red muscle.
If you have any doubt about whether stitches are needed, call your doctor. But don’t wait. If a cut needs stitches, medical glue, or another kind of repair, it must happen within 18–24 hours of when the cut happened.
Home Care for Small Cuts:
- Rinse the wound thoroughly with water to clean out dirt and debris.
- Wash the wound with a mild soap and rinse well. (For minor wounds, you don't need 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.
- If the bandage gets wet, remove it and apply a new one. After the wound forms a scab, a bandage isn't needed.
- Check the wound daily.
- Call your doctor if the wound is red, swollen, tender, warm, or draining pus.
For Bleeding From a Large or Deep Cut or Tear:
- Rinse off the wound with water so you can see it clearly and check its size.
- Place a piece of sterile gauze or a clean cloth over the entire wound. If available, wear clean latex or rubber gloves.
- 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 get immediate medical care for all large or cuts or tears, or if:
- you can't stop the bleeding after 5 minutes of pressure, or if the wound begins bleeding again (continue applying pressure until help arrives)
- you can't 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, a 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.
Date reviewed: August 2022