It's perfectly normal for children to get little scrapes and grazes when they're playing outdoors.

When your child gets a cut

Minor mishaps can easily happen when children are bounding around outdoors or doing craft activities, and can often result in cuts. This health tip tells you when it's best to have these looked at and treated by a doctor.
It's perfectly normal for children to get little scrapes and grazes when they're playing outdoors. But if your son or daughter comes home with a laceration, as a parent you sometimes feel out of your depth. When a child is crying and bleeding, Mum and Dad worry whether it's OK to go running to the doctor with every minor injury or whether they should simply treat the wound themselves.

Which wounds can be treated at home?

Small cuts that aren't too deep can usually be treated at home by parents or carers, but there are some basic guidelines:

  • The wound should not be dirty.
  • The edges of the wound must be smooth and fit back together easily.
  • The bleeding should stop by itself after a short time.
  • There should be no loss of function in terms of feeling, active movement and blood flow/skin colour.

When do you need to see a doctor?

There are some parts of the body where it is best to have the wound checked by a doctor either for medical or cosmetic reasons. These include cuts on the face, in the genital area or over a joint where the wound is likely to be stretched and opened up again repeatedly. Gaping wounds, cuts with ragged edges and lacerations that have been caused by dirty objects such as garden shears or shards of glass need to be properly cleaned and treated by medical professionals.

If the cut is part of a larger contused laceration, blood flow may often be reduced due to the surrounding tissue damage and swelling. The danger then is that the germs that have entered the wound will not be attacked and carried away quickly enough by the immune cells in the blood. This greatly increases the risk of infection. You should see a doctor if there is any suspected loss of function in the hands or feet, even if it is only a vague loss of flexion or extension in a finger or toe. Cuts that go through fingernails or toenails need to be assessed and treated by a professional, and the same applies if there is a foreign body in the wound.

It's important to remember that cuts can only be stitched or glued within the first six hours. After that there will be too many germs in the wound and it will have to be left open to heal. This usually takes longer and can leave unsightly scars.

Tetanus protection in children

For any injury sustained outdoors or caused by an animal or an object that is not completely clean, the question of tetanus arises. The rule here is that as long as they have had their basic immunisation of at least three vaccine doses, children and young people under the age of 25 with superficial, clean cuts only need a tetanus booster if the last jab was more than ten years ago. For deeper, larger or dirty wounds, a booster is required after five years.

It's also important to take your child's vaccination record with you to the doctor's. If you don't have your vaccination record the doctor will always give a booster jab. Why? Because an unnecessary jab does no harm, but if your child does not have sufficient protection and goes on to develop tetanus, the consequences can be terrible.

santé24 – your Swiss telemedicine service

Medical help around the clock: The doctors and medical specialists at santé24 are available to offer you expert advice on all questions concerning prevention, illness, accidents and maternity – 365 days a year. Advice is free of charge to SWICA customers.

In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.