Cuts and scratches

Cuts and scratches

No matter how careful you are, your child can get cut. Knowing what to do will help the cut heal without getting infected. If you think the cut needs stitches or other medical attention, call your health care provider.

What to do if your child gets a cut

  • Put a clean towel or washcloth over the cut. Use firm pressure until the bleeding stops.
  • Clean the cut with soap and water. Make a good soapy lather in the cut. Rinse well with a good stream of cool water. This should wash away dirt. You can put on an antibiotic ointment and cover the cut with a bandage.
  • If the bleeding doesn't stop with pressure, get towels, wadded-up shirts or other clothes and bring your child to their health care provider.

How to take care of scalp stitches

  • Gently wash your child's hair right away. Wait two to three days and shampoo again.
  • Be careful not to catch the stitches in the comb or brush.
  • Wash your child's hair before your health care provider removes the stitches.
  • Use ointment (such as Bacitracin) on the cut two to three times a day.

How to take care of a mouth or lip cut

  • Get medical help if the cut goes entirely through the lip.
  • Give your child foods that are soft and easy to chew.
  • Sucking on cold foods, such as Popsicles®, may reduce the swelling.
  • Call your health care provider if the whitened area around the cut inside your child's mouth becomes swollen, reddened or starts to drain.

How to take care of a facial cut

Keep the area clean with soap and water. Gently clean the area with cotton swabs.

How to take care of animal or human bites

  • See your health care provider for bites that break or puncture your child's skin.
  • These cuts are more likely than others to become infected. Watch for signs of infection and call your health care provider right away for an appointment if you see:
    • increased pain, redness or swelling
    • bleeding or pus draining from the wound
    • red streaks coming from the cut
    • temperature of more than 100 degrees F by mouth.
  • Report an animal bite to the police or sheriff department in the city or county in which the bite occurred.
  • An animal must be watched closely for at least two weeks. Rabies is an issue, especially with wild and unvaccinated animals. If the animal that bit your child cannot be found, your child may need shots to prevent rabies. Your police department can help you call the proper authorities.
  • Take your child to a health care provider if the bite is on their hand, foot, face or joint. Bites that break the skin in these areas need special treatment.

What to do with bandages

  • Change the bandage and check the cut in 24 hours.
  • Keep the bandage clean and dry. If it gets wet, replace it with a clean, dry bandage.
  • Leave the cut uncovered after the scab has formed and is dry.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022