Cuts & Scrapes – Pediatric Care Plan

By Chelsea Johnson, MD, FAAP
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 18, 2019

Attached is a care plan that includes more information about cuts and scrapes as well as things you can do to help your child bounce back. Please return to the K for Parents app if you have new questions or concerns about your child’s clinical course. Thank you for choosing K for Parents! [Link to Care Plan]

What are cuts and scrapes?

Cuts and scrapes refer to any injury to the skin that can result in symptoms like discomfort, pain or bleeding, and may cause infection or scarring if left untreated. 

These can includes:

  • Wounds that go through the skin such as cuts, lacerations, gashes and tears. These often need stitches to prevent infection and scarring. 
  • Surface wounds that scrape off the top layer of skin and don’t go all the way through it (such as scrapes, abrasions, scratches and floor burns, commonly occuring on the knees, elbows and palms). These don’t require stitches.

Stitches are needed for wounds which are:

  • Split open or gaping
  • Longer than ½ inch 
  • Situated on the face and are longer than ¼ inch 

Note: any open wound that may need stitches should be seen as soon as possible (ideally within 6 hours) to prevent infection and scarring.

  • Use direct pressure to stop the bleeding, using a clean gauze or cloth for about 10 minutes (or until the bleeding stops). 
  • Rinse the wound under running water for about 5 minutes
  •  Gently wash the wound with water and soap 

caution: never soak a wound (submerge in water for over 5 minutes) if you think it may need stitches as it may swell and become harder to close.

  • If possible, remove dirt and any foreign objects with a washcloth (if its seems hard to remove, seek care in person)
  • Apply an OTC topical antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin
  • Place a clean bandage or dressing
  • Change the bandage daily while keeping the area clean
  • Monitor for signs of local infection (redness, swelling, pus, or a body temperature of 38 C or 100.4 F or above).

For minor injuries 

For smaller injuries or breaks in the skin (like paper cuts, hangnails, cracks on the fingers or toes), use a liquid skin bandage. Liquid skin bandages have several benefits:

  • It seals wounds with a plastic coating which may promote faster healing and lower infection rates
  • It only has to be put once and lasts up to 1 week
  • it Is water-proof – your child can bathe or shower with it
  • You can get it over the counter

You can get this product at a drugstore near you. There are many brands of liquid bandage, and the store brand of this product costs less than 5 dollars.

How to use a liquid bandage:

  • Gently wash and dry the wound 
  • Apply the  liquid using the small brush in the package 
  • Wait for it to dry (it takes under a minute)

Pain management

Use pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen as needed.

When to consider a tetanus shot

A tetanus shot or booster may be needed for cuts and other open wounds.

  • Check your vaccine records to see when your child got the last tetanus shot:
  • Dirty  cuts and scrapes: if the last shot was given over 5 years ago, get a booster.
  • Clean cuts: if the last shot was given over 10 years ago, get a booster.

See your child’s doctor for a booster during regular office hours, preferably within no more than 3 days.

Expected recovery time 

Small wounds should heal in about a week, while bigger ones may take about a week or two longer to recover fully.

Seek in-person care if:

  • The pain worsens or becomes severe
  • There are signs of infection (redness, swelling, pus, or a body temperature of 38 C or 100.4 F or above).
  • The wound doesn’t seem to be healing within 10 days or so

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.