Cuts and Grazes

Children approaching school age are full of energy and love to play – climbing trees, going to the swings or simply running around the house. It’s only natural to expect a few cuts and grazes as they learn to make sense of their developing motor skills. To stop their tears and get them back on their feet, read our guide to healing cuts and grazes.

How do little ones cut or graze themselves?

Minor injuries can happen to children in the home or out and about, no matter how much you child-proof your home. Most commonly, they occur when children are playing sports and fall against a hard surface. The impact can break the skin, for example, falling from a climbing frame. 

Most cuts and grazes are minor and will heal within a few days. The most important thing to do is to stop the bleeding and make sure the wound is clean to prevent infection.

What to do when a child suffers a cut or graze

If your child has a cut or graze, you should first assess the wound to see how deep it is. Serious cuts may result in heavy bleeding and you may need to go to Accident and Emergency. If it’s a minor cut or grazes, you need to clean the wound thoroughly. Wash your hands and run the cut under a tap or apply a sterile, medicated wipe.

You can pat the wound dry with non-fluffy absorbent material such as a paper towel or a tea towel. This may sting slightly, so try to keep your child calm.

Applying a dressing

Next, you need to stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure. If the cut is deeper, you should encourage your child to lift the injured area above the heart to ease the blood flow.

Schoolteachers or childminders should check that the child is not allergic to plasters before applying one. If you cannot use a plaster, you can apply a sterile dressing pad. Make sure the bleeding has stopped and that the area is clean and dry.

If the wound stings, you can calm your child further by applying a pea-sized amount of antiseptic cream before the dressing. This may be useful if the injury has happened outside and you’re worried about germs. You should change the plaster daily and keep an eye on the wound for any signs of infection.

What to watch out for

You should seek medical attention if the wound does not appear to stop bleeding after you’ve applied pressure. This could be a sign of a deeper cut, which may need stitches or other medical help. Likewise, you should take your child to Accident and Emergency if there is a foreign object in the wound such as a piece of glass, or if your child has suffered a bite. In some cases, these may require tetanus injections.

Keep an eye on the wound in the following days when you change the dressing. It may be infected if you notice swelling or pus, or if your child feels unwell. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Quiz time for parents

What is most important when treating a child's cut or graze?