Cuts and scrapes can send parents into a panic

February 06, 2004|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Where there are kids, there are cuts, bumps and bruises.

No matter how hard we try to keep little ones from getting hurt, it's inevitable that something will happen at some point.

When it does, parental guilt often kicks in.

How could we have prevented this? What should we do differently next time? A fully cushioned body suit, perhaps.

"Parents always want to know the exact, correct thing to do," says Dr. Jonathan M. Sykes, director of facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery at University of California Medical Center.

The best thing is to know, in advance, what to do when your child gets hurt.

"You can't stop a child from running," Sykes says, so be prepared and don't let emotions take over.

That's a lesson I learned the hard way.

When my son was progressing from walking to running, he took a nasty spill in our driveway.

We had an annual checkup two days later. I told the pediatrician that I felt horrible bringing a scab-covered child to his office and that I couldn't believe the fall happened right before we were coming to see him.


He said that was actually the best time for the fall to happen so he could look at the cuts and scrapes.

I have to admit that I felt rather silly then. Of course that was a good time for my son to be examined.

Things don't always work out so neatly. A child falls or is hurt in some other way, and a parent is left wondering if the wound should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Here are some basics to tack up in your medicine cabinet, courtesy of Dr. Sykes:

How do I know if my child's wound should be seen by a doctor?

  • If there's a significant amount of blood that can't be stopped by applying pressure to the site for a few minutes.

  • If it seems like the cut is particularly deep.

  • If the cut is in an anatomically sensitive area - edge of the nose, eyelid, etc.

How can I prevent scarring?

Many scars will take 12 to 18 months to "mature," or completely heal, Sykes says.

Topical remedies can speed up the end result slightly by minimizing a scar's inflammation.

Sykes recommends a gel such as Mederma, but he says time is the only thing that truly helps a scar heal.

If a scar is really inflamed or rigid, a doctor may opt to use topical or injected steroids to aid healing.

In extreme cases, a scar revision may be considered. This involves re-cutting or lasering the scar.

How can I prevent infection?

Don't overlook the effectiveness of soap and water.

"If you use peroxide for 12 seconds, that's not as good as using Dial for 10 minutes," Sykes says.

A wound should be thoroughly cleaned before being treated. Wounds on extremities - the hands and feet - should be cleaned for longer periods of time because blood supply is more limited there than on the face or trunk.

After cleaning the wound, use a topical antibiotic, such as Betadine.

Peroxide may be used once a wound has closed. A solution of half peroxide/half water may be sprayed directly on the wound.

What if the wound itches?

Itching is normal as the wound heals.

If that sensation is intense, Benadryl may provide some comfort.

The promise of a sticker for each day that the scab stays on can't hurt, either.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

The Herald-Mail Articles