Caring for Your Child’s Wounds

Types of Wounds

A minor wound can heal well at home, when given proper care. The following are treatments for each type of minor wound:

Small Cuts and Scrapes:

  • Stop bleeding by pressing a clean, soft cloth against the wound for a few minutes.
  • Clean the wound. Run warm water over the cut for 5 minutes. Then use soap to gently wash the skin around the cut or scrape thoroughly. Try to remove all dirt from the wound.
  • Put a light layer of an antibiotic ointment around the cut to kill germs.
  • Dry the area lightly and cover it with gauze or other type of bandage that will not stick to the wound.

Bruises: Apply a cool compress. Call the pediatrician if the child has continued pain, swelling, or additional symptoms.

Splinters: Remove small splinters with tweezers. If you cannot remove the splinter completely, call the pediatrician. Once the splinter is removed, wash the area with soap and water, pat dry, and apply a bandage.

Bites: Bites that break the skin need medical care. Germs from animal or human saliva can get into the wound, and you will usually need antibiotics to prevent infection. Your doctor or nurse will also want to ensure the animal didn’t have rabies.

First Degree Burns:

  • Run cool (not cold) water over the burn for about five minutes.
  • Cover the burned area with a clean bandage that will not stick to the burn site.
  • Keep the burn site clean with gentle washing with soap and water. Applying aloe vera or an antibiotic ointment can help heal the skin.

Minor Puncture Wounds: Remove the object that caused the puncture, only if it is small and can be taken out easily. Make sure the object that caused the puncture is intact. If any part of it remains in the wound, seek medical help immediately. Apply pressure, wash it thoroughly with soap and water, and cover it with a clean, dry bandage. It is safest to call the pediatrician for all puncture wounds because they can easily become infected.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Call your pediatrician if:

  • Bleeding does not slow down and your child has a cut that is deep, gaping, or in a cosmetically sensitive area.
  • An animal or human bite breaks the skin.
  • Your child has a puncture wound.
  • You can’t get all the dirt and debris out of a cut, scrape, or puncture wound.
  • You think the wound is infected.

Wound Care Do’s & Don’ts


  • Wash the wound gently with soap and water. In a pinch, use baby wipes or bottled water until you can get to a bathroom.
  • Keep the bandage on until the wound is healed. A bandage allows some oxygen to get in while keeping the area moist. This is the best environment for regenerating new skin.
  • Do tell your children not to scratch the wound. Scratching can irritate or reopen a cut. Always remember that itching is normal in the healing process.



  • Don’t disinfect with rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine. These products can dry the skin, which will slow healing.
  • Don’t allow a wound to air and scab over. This slows the skin from healing and increases the chances of infection and scarring.
  • Don’t leave the bandage unchanged. You must change them at least once a day. You can use adhesive bandages, adhesive free dressings, or sterile gauze and paper tape.

Infection Warning Signs

Germs, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi, can enter a break in the skin and spread into the sensitive tissues underneath, causing infection. The skin often acts as a barrier from these germs, but an open wound provides a way for germs to travel from the outside to the inside of the body.

Check your child’s wound daily for these signs of infection:

  • Warmth or expanding redness around the wound
  • Yellow or greenish-colored pus or increased wound drainage
  • A red streak spreading from the wound
  • Increased swelling, tenderness, or pain around the wound
  • A foul odor or abnormal smell
  • A fever or chills

If you suspect infection, call your doctor immediately. Often a prescription antibiotic will help to fight off an infection.

Preventing an Infection

  • Before and after caring for a wound, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Make sure your child also practices good hand hygiene.
  • Always flush a wound with running water to wash away bacteria. Then clean the area with soap and water.
  • Cover the wound to keep out infection. An open scab slows the skin from healing and increases the chances of infection.

Periodically change the bandage, usually once a day, and when it gets wet, dirty, or worn-out looking.

Good Hand Hygiene

A child’s best defense against infection is washing their hands thoroughly after certain activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend teaching your child this hand-washing routine:

  • Routinely wash your hands particularly after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.


The American Pediatric Association
America’s Best Children’s Hospitals

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