I’m going to start with a disclaimer of “Go See Your Doctor When in Doubt”. If you read through this article and are still wondering if your child’s injury is bad enough for stitches, then it probably is.
Kids get cuts and bleed all the time – it is part of exploring their new world. And your job is to keep band-aids and boo-boo bunnies at the ready! There are three types of bleeding: capillary (little cuts), venous (bigger or deeper, with bright red blood) and arterial (spurting blood). *Note that head wounds bleed like crazy. Even with a small cut, you may find a significant amount of blood. So don’t freak out – find the source.
Here’s what you need to do:
Stay calm: If you stay calm that will help your child to stay calm. Clean it: You need to remove any debris. Soap and water are perfect. Dress it: Find a clean cloth to stop the bleeding. This is when you need a first aid kit in your diaper bag. Otherwise, that back-up onesie is a perfect dressing. Apply Pressure: You are trying to get the wound to clot. If it bleeds through the first cloth, then apply another one on top. DON’T remove the bloody first one. Just keep applying pressure until the bleeding stops. Whew! Okay, now you can breathe and assess.
Does your child need medical attention? Yes, if the wound is:
still bleeding through the dressing gaping or you can pull the wound apart on their face or neck Will they need stitches?
Maybe. Your doctor has many options, from butterfly bandages to adhesive bonds. But they are limited once a lot of time has passed, so when in doubt, call. They may send you onto a plastic surgeon, especially if the injury is on the face.
Will they need a tetanus shot?
Probably not. Tetanus is the “T” in all those baby shots of DTaP. And they receive a booster at 11 years old – the Tdap.
Helpful tip: An empty Altoid tin is the perfect size for band-aids – and easy to find in diaper bags.
About Julia: Julia lives in Weston, CT where she has been a volunteer EMT and CPR Instructor for 10+ years. She has also worked as a MA for Village Pediatrics in Westport, CT since they started 9 years ago. In that time, and as a mother of three, she has also been a Girl Scout leader and soccer manager, so she’s seen her fair share of First Aid injuries and emergencies.