Children & Adolescents Clinic

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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Cuts and Scratches (for Teenagers)


Cuts are caused by sharp objects. Most cuts are superficial and extend only partially through the skin. Cuts that need stitches (sutures) are deep and leave the skin edges separated. Also, deep cuts that are longer than 1/2 inch (1/4 inch if on the face) need stitches.


  1. Treatment
    • Apply direct pressure for 10 minutes to stop any bleeding.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • Cut off any pieces of loose skin using small scissors (for torn skin with scrapes).
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a Band-Aid or gauze. Wash the wound and change the Band-Aid or gauze daily.
    • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed for pain relief.

  2. Common mistakes in treating cuts and scratches

    Don't use alcohol or Merthiolate on open wounds. They sting and damage normal tissue.

    Don't kiss an open wound because the wound will become contaminated by the many germs in a person's mouth.

    Let the scab fall off by itself; picking it off may cause a scar.


  • Bleeding doesn't stop after you have applied pressure directly to the area of the cut for 10 minutes.
  • The skin is split open and might need sutures.
  • There is any dirt in the wound that you can't get out.
  • The cut looks infected (for example, pus, redness, red streaks).

Note: Lacerations (deep cuts) must be sutured within 12 hours of the time of injury, and they are much less likely to become infected if they are sutured within 2 hours.


  • You haven't had a tetanus booster in more than 10 years (5 years if the cut is dirty).
  • The wound doesn't heal by 10 days.
  • You have other questions or concerns.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems