kid boo boo

What do you do when your child gets a big cut or scrape? Our children's health expert Dr. Michel Cohen says, don't panic. If anything, your child's reaction will only be enhanced if they see you overly alarmed.

The first thing you do to a cut is stop the bleeding by pressing on the wound, he says. When the bleeding has stopped, your next focus is to establish whether or not the cut requires stitches. If the sides of the wound are touching consistently, the skin will heal on its own, and all you need to do is apply antibiotic cream regularly to prevent infection.

But, if there is a significant distance between the two edges of the cut, or if the edges are close but spread apart easily when the affected body part moves, this may require surgical closure, both for cosmetic purposes and to limit infection. There is some urgency, because a cut can still be treated several hours later, but by the next day it may be too late to repair the skin without significant risk of infection.

Once you've dealt with the cut, you worry about the scar. In general, a red puffy area will persist for many months, so you won't be able to gauge the healing skin's final appearance for a while. While you wait, there's not much you can or should do. Applying vitamin E to the scar, while popular, won't really improve the outcome. Instead, keep the wounded area out of the sun as best as you can, and use sunscreen on it; the new skin of the scar has no pigment and will burn easily. If it's any consolation, the scars we get in childhood are generally invisible by adulthood.