Cuts, Scratches & Grazes

Cuts, Scratches & Grazes

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

Key points to remember about cuts, scratches and grazes

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)

What should I do if my child has a cut or graze?

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 should I seek help for my child's cut or graze?

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.

What is a puncture wound?

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.

What should I do if my child has a puncture wound?

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 should I seek help for my child's puncture wound?

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 12 May 2020.
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