Cuts, grazes and puncture wounds

Cuts, grazes and puncture wounds

How to care for cuts, grazes or puncture wounds. If your child has a wound that won't stop bleeding, see your doctor or go to the emergency department.

Key points to remember

Cuts and grazes pamphlet

  • a clean cut or tear in the skin is called a laceration
  • most lacerations are superficial and heal easily with self-care
  • deeper lacerations may need stitches by a nurse or doctor
  • a graze (or abrasion) is a scraping or rubbing away of the skin surface
  • grazes are superficial and usually heal within 2 weeks with self-care
  • if your child has very serious bleeding including spurting blood, or they feel faint or light headed then call 111 within New Zealand straightaway (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries)

Self-care

If your child has a cut or graze, follow these steps to help it heal well.

  • wash your hands with soap and water before and after cleaning any wound
  • if necessary use direct pressure to stop bleeding
  • clean the wound with tap water- use sterile saline solution if you have some in your first aid kit
  • leave clean, loose flaps of skin in place to form a natural dressing
  • apply antiseptic ointment (such as savlon or betadine) only if the wound is dirty – do not use for longer than 2 weeks
  • cover with a non-stick dressing
  • keep dry for 24 hours if possible during initial healing
  • replace the dressing if it becomes dirty or wet
  • check whether your child needs a tetanus injection
  • a booster tetanus injection is recommended if it is more than 10 years since your child's last tetanus injection, or 5 years if the wound is dirty, contaminated or deep

When to seek help

See your doctor or nurse if:

  • you can't fully clean the wound
  • the bleeding won't stop
  • the wound is deep and the skin is gaping

If you have managed to clean and dress the wound, keep an eye on it and see your doctor if:

  • your child has any new loss of feeling, numbness or inability to move the limb
  • there is increased redness, swelling, tenderness and/or it becomes warm to touch
  • red streaks develop
  • there is a coloured or smelly discharge
  • the wound has not healed after 2 weeks

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.

Puncture wounds

A puncture wound is when something penetrates layers of skin, such as a knife, nail or tooth. Bacteria can be carried to the tissue under the skin.

Puncture wounds usually close very quickly and need to be cleaned thoroughly to prevent infection.

Self-care

If your child has a puncture wound, follow these steps to help it heal well.

  • wash your hands with soap and water before and after cleaning the wound
  • flush the wound with running tap water to remove all dirt
  • check whether a tetanus injection is needed
  • a booster injection is recommended if it is more than 10 years since your child's last tetanus injection or 5 years if the wound is dirty, contaminated or deep

When to seek help

See your family doctor or nurse if:

  • there is something stuck in the puncture wound
  • your child has any numbness or tingling below the puncture

If you have managed to clean and dress the wound, keep an eye on it and see your doctor if:

  • your child has any new loss of feeling, numbness or inability to move limb
  • there is increased redness, swelling, tenderness or it becomes warm to touch
  • red streaks develop
  • there is a coloured or smelly discharge
  • the wound has not healed after 2 weeks

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.

Source: Workbase and Ministry of Health printout (PDF, 189KB)

This page last reviewed 08 August 2017.
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