Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 10am

Your Health

Caring for common boo-boos

You hate it when it happens, but it’s unavoidable. Your child’s adventurous spirit will lead him or her to bumps, cuts and scrapes. As a parent, at times you may be unsure how to care for minor injuries or how to judge if they are serious enough to warrant a doctor’s visit.

How should I care for my child’s cuts and scrapes?

For minor cuts or scrapes, first clean the wounded area gently with water and a clean washcloth. Don’t scrub too hard, as it may irritate the wound. Rinse the area thoroughly under running water until it’s clean. You can also use mild soap to wash the dirt off the wound. Check the injury daily and watch for signs of infection, including redness, swelling, pus or if your child has a fever.

If the wound is bleeding, apply gentle, firm pressure to the area with clean gauze until the bleeding stops. If the wound doesn’t stop bleeding, seek medical attention.

Should I cover my child’s wound?

To promote healing, leave the wound uncovered once you’ve cleaned it. If the wounded area is very exposed or will rub on clothing and feels uncomfortable, apply some antibiotic ointment and cover it with an adhesive bandage such as a Band-Aid. Check the wound and change the bandage daily.

What should I keep on hand to treat my child’s minor injuries?

Keep a first-aid kit stocked with the following items at home and in the car.

• Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes

• Gauze

• Ace bandage (for ankle sprains)

• Iodine solution (for deeper cleaning, if you have no access to water)

• Antibiotic ointment

• Over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen

• Tweezers and scissors

When should I take my child to the doctor?

If your child’s wound is dirty and you can’t clean it properly, you should go to the doctor.

If your child has a deep cut or the edges of the cut are separated, it may need stitches or glue. In this case don’t delay – go to the doctor right away.

If your child has a puncture wound (for example, has stepped on a nail), check with your doctor to make sure that your child’s tetanus immunization status is current.

How should I care for bruises, strains and sprains?

A big, colorful bruise can look a lot worse than it is. To ease the discomfort of minor strains, sprains or twists, use RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). If the bruise is very tender, abnormally large and makes it hard for your child to walk or move, have it checked out.

How can I tell if my child has broken a bone?

If your child has a fracture, there may be considerable swelling around the injured area and it will be very painful to the touch. The injury and pain will also impair your child’s movement. For example, if he or she can’t walk without severe pain after hurting an ankle or a leg, check with your child’s doctor to see if an X-ray is needed.

It’s nearly impossible to keep your child injury-free, but at least you know now what to do when a boo-boo requires more than a kiss or a hug.

Dr. Michaella Okihara is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Mountain View Center.

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation and column editor Arian Dasmalchi provide this monthly column.

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