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Bumps, Burns and Breaks: Treating Childhood Injuries

With kids come accidents. And as parents, it’s hard sometimes to discern what injury can be treated at home and what should be treated by a professional. Here are some easy-to remember tips to identifying injuries and what you can do to treat them.

Cuts and scrapes

Cuts are usually deeper in nature and have smooth, edges where the skin has been separated. Cuts occur mostly with sharp edges. Scrapes are abrasions that are usually shallow, affect a larger skin area and are rough. Scrapes can sometimes feel much worse than a cut because of the amount of damages skin.

How to treat:

The first step is to stop the bleeding by applying pressure. Usually 5-10 minutes of pressure will stop most bleeds. If the bleeding persists, apply pressure for another 10 minutes. If it still doesn’t stop, see a provider.

Once you have stopped the bleeding, clean the wound with fresh water and clear away any debris you may encounter. Put an antibiotic ointment on the wound and cover with a clean bandage.

If after a day or two there is redness, and irritation around the wound and the skin feels warm to the touch, see your doctor. The wound maybe infected.


Children may experience burns to their skin. Sunburns are the most common and can be 1st (redness) or 2nd degree (redness and blistering). Hot liquids, open flame and chemicals like cleaning supplies can cause 2nd and 3rd degree burns (burn may appear white, brown, red or black and may not have blisters).

How to treat:

1st degree burns can be treated with cool water and Aloe Vera gel. 2nd degree burns should be kept clean and watched closely for infection. 3rd degree burns should be seen by a physician immediately.

Strain, Sprains and Breaks

Strains are when a muscle and/or tendon are stretched or torn. Pain is immediate with swelling and bruising occurring after an hour or so. Sprains may include muscle and tendon damage but most of the time include tearing to the ligament. Usually immediate swelling and bruising occurs.

How to treat:

In the first 48 hours following injury, the RICE method may provide relief for strains and sprains and promote healing. RICE stands for: 

  • Rest: Rest the injured part until it's less painful. Stop any activity which is causing the pain.

  • Ice: Wrap an icepack or cold compress in a towel and place over the injured part immediately. Continue for no more than 20 minutes at a time, three times a day.

  • Compression: Support the injured part with an elastic compression bandage for at least 2 days. Do not wrap too tightly, this may cause swelling below the area. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage.

  • Elevation: Raise the injured part at or above heart level to decrease swelling. You can rest the injured area on a pillow for comfort.

Children tend to break bone easier than spraining joints, so if you see immediate swelling accompanied with significant pain over a bone area, see your health care provider immediately as this could be a break.

Seek care for an injury if your child has:

  • Severe pain when the injured part is touched or moved
  • Trouble bearing weight on the limb
  • Numbness or a feeling of "pins and needles" in the injured area
  • A limb or joint that looks "bent" or misshapen
  • If the area develops warmth, redness or streaks, swelling or pain. This may indicate an infection.
  • If the strain or sprain doesn't appear to be improving after 5 to 7 days

As with any injury, you as a parent, know best. Trust your instincts. If you feel a visit to your health care provider, Urgent Care or Emergency Room is warranted, don’t hesitate to go.

Ultimately, your child’s health is the most important objective.

Stephanie Neuhaus, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court

Dr. Neuhaus answers your questions about child health and parenting. She enjoys being a pediatrician because it allows her the opportunity to help people every day. Dr. Neuhaus is always open and honest with her patients and she is excited to watch them as they learn and grow. She strives to build lasting relationships with her patients and their families. Dr. Neuhaus, a mother herself, believes in always listening to patients' moms. They know when something is wrong with their child and d ...

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