Cuts and Bruises

Cuts and bruises are the most common injuries you will have to deal with as a parent. For the most part, your role will be to wipe away tears, offer a hug, and explain what happened (“You tripped on the toy, so let's put it away” or “You need to be careful when you're close to the table”). This will help your child pay attention to her surroundings, while also helping her see that she can recover from a small injury.

Every home should have a complete first-aid kit, and a home with a one-year-old should also have adhesive bandages of every size and shape as well as gauze and tape. Most adhesive bandages are not designed with a small body in mind, and you will sometimes have to be creative when it comes to finding the right one to cover a cut or to stay on a body that wriggles a lot and gets wet and dirty easily.

Essential

Fun adhesive bandages, covered with cartoon characters and other designs, help children stop focusing on their cuts. Even though they serve no extra medicinal purpose, the designs are a good way to make a child's boo-boos a little less frightening.

A scrape is the most superficial type of cut. With a scrape, the first couple of layers of skin are removed but the cut doesn't go down below the skin. Scrapes can hurt, though, so your child may feel better with an adhesive bandage. You should rinse the scrape with cool water to clean the wound and alleviate some of the throbbing pain that accompanies a scrape. Make sure to get any gravel or sand out of the wound, and then cover with antiseptic cream and a bandage.

A cut is deeper than a scrape. Cuts are generally narrow incisions that tend to bleed. Most cuts also just require a little antiseptic (such as hydrogen peroxide or antiseptic cream) and an adhesive bandage, but if the cut is bleeding a lot, you should clean the wound and consider whether it requires stitches. You should see a doctor about stitches if a child's cut is deeper than a quarter-inch or if it gapes open (meaning that it opens like a fish's mouth).

It's scary for a child to see his own blood (and to his parent, as well). If your child does get a bad cut, it's one of those moments when you'll really have to be a grown-up and not let your child see any reaction other than calm capability. If you can, raise the injured area of the body to help slow the flow of blood. The body part should be elevated at least a few inches, but not so much that your child is uncomfortable. Cover the wound with something clean and absorbent and apply gentle pressure to the wound. This will help stop the bleeding and will also hide the wound, which might help calm your child.

If your child gets hysterical or overly upset about the bleeding, try to have someone else talk to him or soothe him while you clean and bandage his cut. If this is impossible, keep talking to him while you fix him up.

A cut on a baby's head can look scary because scalp wounds can bleed a lot even when they aren't necessarily deeper or more serious than other cuts. However, you should always be extra-cautious with head cuts and bumps because of the danger of internal injury, such as concussion.

Alert!

If your child's accident results in clear fluid or blood leaking from his ears or nose, immediately bring him to a doctor or emergency room. This can indicate a skull injury. Also be on the lookout for any behavioral changes, such as lethargy or fatigue.

If your child seems to lose consciousness, is drowsy or nauseated, or has trouble hearing or responding to you within twenty-four hours of hitting his head, bring him to the doctor or an emergency room right away. If his head is swelling, put some ice on it and keep an eye on him. The swelling should go down, not get worse, and while it's natural for bruises to change color, they should not get bloody or fill with fluid.

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