No matter how much we try to watch over our children and ensure their safety, it is inevitable that the average toddler, preschooler, and school-aged kidwill get a cut, scratch, or abrasion from time to time. It is vital that parents and other caregivers understand when to seek medicalattention and how to care for minor skin injuries.

Injuries that require medical attention include:

  • those that bleed continuously;

  • those that are large or deep;

  • wounds inflicted by possibly contaminated objects such as nails.

Caring for a wound Start by using pressure.Stop the bleeding by applying firm pressure with clean gauze or cloth over the area for five minutes. If bleeding continues even after applying pressure,you should contact your child's doctor.

Cleanse the wound.Once bleeding has been controlled, the wound must be cleansed. Place the area under cool or lukewarm running water for a few minutes to flush away anysmall debris. You should avoid overly aggressive scrubbing and the use of iodine, alcohol or other antiseptic solutions on open wounds because they can beuncomfortable for your child. You can control the pain by giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen by mouth, as needed. Remember to check with your health careprovider before giving medicine to your child. Aspirin should always be avoided because, among other reasons, it may encourage bleeding.

Apply antibiotic ointment.After the area has been cleansed, apply an antibiotic ointment followed by a non-stick bandage. Change the bandage daily or whenever it becomes soiled orwet. Once the area appears to be healing well, the bandage can be removed and the area left open to heal. Should your child develop a fever or the woundsite show redness or oozing, contact your healthcare provider. These signs may indicate an infection, which may require a prescription antibiotic.

In the E.R. Deep lacerations, which are linear tears or cuts of the skin, need to be treated by a medical professional. Most often this is done in the emergency roomor urgent-care clinic.

What can you expect if your child needs such medical attention?

  • Cleansing. For starters, the area will usually be anesthetized with some form of topical or injected medicine so there is no pain. The wound will then be cleansed, usually with cool water squirted into the area with a syringe, to remove any small debris.

  • Closing. The doctor will then decide on the best method of closing the wound. The standard method is to use stitches, which are generally removed in one to two weeks. A newer treatment, which can be used in wounds that are not too large or deep in locations without significant skin tension, involves the use of a tissue adhesive. This substance is applied to the cleansed wound edges and seals them like a super-glue for the skin.

The advantages are that it is fast, there are no stitches to remove, and there are no marks left on the skin. Unfortunately, tissue adhesive cannot be usedfor all wounds.

Preventing or limiting scars Here's how to minimize scarring:

  • Keep the wound covered during the early stages of healing. This will help speed the growth of new skin.

  • It is vital to keep your child relatively inactive during the healing period. Have her avoid aggressive sports (especially contact sports) to decrease risk of further damage to the wound.

  • Control pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen to decrease stress and increase healing.

  • Ensure that your child is receiving adequate nutrition. Many vitamins, minerals, and trace elements are important in the wound-healing process.

Remember to keep your cool, and your child will keep hers! Don't forget the power of a parent's kiss and nurturing love in healing any injury.