Cuts, Scrapes, or Bruises (Skin Injury)  

This Care Guide Covers:

  • Cuts, lacerations, gashes and tears. These are wounds that go through the skin to the fat tissue.
  • Scrapes, abrasions, scratches and floor burns. These are surface wounds that don't go all the way through the skin.
  • Bruises. These are bleeding into the skin from damaged blood vessels. They occur without a cut or scrape.

If not, see these topics
View First Aid Advice
  • Advice for Bleeding:
  • First Aid Advice for Shock:
  • First Aid Advice for Penetrating Object:

View images
Abrasion on Elbow
Abrasion on Elbow

First Aid - Cut - Gaping and Needing Sutures
First Aid - Cut - Gaping and Needing Sutures

Laceration - Chin
Laceration - Chin

Abrasion on Elbow (3 Days Old)
Abrasion on Elbow (3 Days Old)

Scratches from a Cat
Scratches from a Cat

Bruise on Thigh (1 Day Old)
Bruise on Thigh (1 Day Old)

Bruise on Forearm
Bruise on Forearm

Laceration - Chin (After Skin Glue)
Laceration - Chin (After Skin Glue)

Impetigo of Elbow
Impetigo of Elbow

Laceration - Scalp
Laceration - Scalp

Laceration - Scalp (After Staples)
Laceration - Scalp (After Staples)

When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • Major bleeding that can't be stopped. See FIRST AID
  • Deep cut to chest, stomach, head or neck (such as with a knife). See FIRST AID.
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Bleeding won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure. See FIRST AID.
  • Deep cut and can see bone or tendons
  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Pain is SEVERE and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Age under 1 year old
  • Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Skin loss from bad scrape goes very deep
  • Bad scrape covers large area
  • Cut or scrape looks infected (spreading redness, red streak)
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Very large bruise after a minor injury
  • Some bruises appear without any known injury
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • No tetanus shot in over 5 years for DIRTY cuts
  • No tetanus shot in over 10 years for CLEAN cuts
  • Doesn’t heal by 10 days
Parent Care at Home If
  • Minor cut, scrape or bruise
Causes & Health Information

When Sutures (stitches) are Needed

  • Any cut that is split open or gaping needs sutures.
  • Cuts longer than ½ inch (12 mm) usually need sutures.
  • On the face, cuts longer than ¼ inch (6 mm) usually need to be seen. They usually need closure with sutures or skin glue.
  • Any open wound that may need sutures should be seen as soon as possible. Ideally, they should be checked and closed within 6 hours. There is no cutoff, however, for treating open wounds to prevent wound infections.

Cuts Versus Scratches: Helping You Decide

  • The skin is 2 mm (about 1/8 inch) thick.
  • A cut (laceration) goes through it.  
  • A scratch or scrape (wide scratch) doesn’t go through the skin.
  • Cuts that gape open at rest or with movement need closure to prevent scarring.
  • Scrapes and scratches never need closure, no matter how long they are.
  • So this distinction is important.
CARE ADVICE FOR MINOR CUTS, SCRAPES OR BRUISES

  1. Cuts, Scratches and Scrapes:
    • Use direct pressure to stop any bleeding. Do this for 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes. Try to rinse the cut under running water.
    • Caution: Never soak a wound that might need sutures. Reason: It may become more swollen and harder to close.
    • Gently scrub out any dirt with a washcloth.
    • Cut off any pieces of loose skin using a fine scissors. Clean the scissors first with rubbing alcohol.
    • Put an antibiotic ointment on such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed. Then, cover it with a Band-Aid or dressing. Change daily.
  2. Liquid Skin Bandage for Minor Cuts and Scrapes:
    • Liquid skin bandage seals wounds with a plastic coating. It lasts up to 1 week.
    • Liquid skin bandage has several benefits compared to other bandages (such as Band-Aid). Liquid bandage only needs to be put on once. It seals the wound and may promote faster healing and lower infection rates. Also, it's water-proof.
    • Wash and dry the wound first. Then, put on the liquid. It comes with a brush or swab. It dries in less than a minute.
    • You can get this product at a drugstore near you. There are many brands of liquid bandage. No prescription is needed.
  3. Bruises:
    • Use a cold pack or ice bag wrapped in a wet cloth. Put it on the bruise once for 20 minutes. This will help to stop the bleeding.
    • After 48 hours, use a warm wet wash cloth. Do this for 10 minutes 3 times per day. This helps to reabsorb the blood.
  4. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Small cuts and scrapes heal up in less than a week.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Bleeding does not stop after using direct pressure to the cut
    • Starts to look infected (pus, redness)
    • Doesn't heal by 10 days
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/14/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.