Boo-boo care: Bandage or stitches?


Many children are bursting at the seams to get outdoors this time of year. 

All of that extra time outdoors riding bikes and skateboards means more chances for bruises and skinned knees. 

Sometimes it's hard to tell what can be treated at home, and when it's time to head to the emergency department.

According to Dr. Purva Grover, of Cleveland Clinic Children's, many times it depends on where the cut is.

"Where is this laceration?" If it's anywhere near one of the more vital organs -- like the eyes, the genitalia area or face -- you probably want to get it looked at sooner rather than later, simply because these areas are sometimes very hard to examine, and they bleed," she said. 

Lacerations on the scalp, face and mouth are likely to bleed the most because of the vascular nature of these areas. Grover said this can be alarming for children. But often times, the bleeding is scarier than the injury itself.

However, there are times when a cut needs more than a kiss and a bandage. 

"If a wound is gaping in nature, which means that if you try to put it together and it doesn't quite come together, then, likely, it is something which will need an extra level of attention by a physician," Grover said.

Grover said minor cuts and scrapes should be washed thoroughly with clean water.

With superficial injuries, parents can use a topical antibiotic cream, which can help keep the cut from getting infected.

A bandage should be used in the early stages to stop bleeding and keep the area from becoming infected, but once the wound starts to heal, it's best to remove the bandage and leave the area exposed. 

The trick, of course, is getting the bandage off without any drama.

"It sounds cruel, but the easiest way is the quickest -- a loud, 'Ouch,' and then it's off," Grover said.

Grover said if a cut doesn't appear to be healing after a few days or if it looks like there are scratch marks going up and down the wound, this is an indication of a serious infection that might need medical attention right away.