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Cuts and grazes

bacteria; antiseptic; accident; cut; graze; bruise; scrape; hepatitis; B; C; HIV/AIDS; tetanus; stitch; scar; lead; pencil; abrasion; healing; sore; bleeding; first; aid; blood; keloid; lockjaw; infection;


Do you ever fall over and hurt yourself? Every one does sometimes and when you are active and growing it can happen more often.

Sometimes we can damage our skin. Although our bodies are very good at healing themselves, we still need to give them some help.

If we help, our body can heal itself more quickly. If we don't, healing can be slower and some bad bacteria (germs) can get into the sore, which can make us sick.

Grazes (scrapes or abrasions)

These are one of the most common injuries to skin, especially if you are a little kid.

Little kids tend to race around, getting all excited and not looking where they are going.

A fall often means that the kid slides along the ground rubbing or grazing some skin off whichever bit of the body is touching the ground at the time.

cuts and bruises

What to do for a graze

  • Wash the area of the graze with soap and water, being careful to get out any dirt or bits of whatever you fell on eg soil, dirt, gravel.
  • Put on some antiseptic like 'Betadine'** (to kill off any bugs that didn't get washed off).
  • Cover with a dressing that has holes in so that the air can get through (like a Band-aid** or Elastoplast**).

Cuts - what to do

  • Wash the area with soap and water, or water with a drop of mild disinfectant in it.
  • If the cut is not very deep, cover it with a dressing.
  • If the cut is deep you need to get help from a doctor. You might need to have stitches or a special glue to pull the sides of the cut together.
  • If the cut is on your head or face it's a good idea to see a doctor as all cuts can leave scars as they heal.

If the cut is bleeding a lot or is very deep, you need to follow these steps: -

  • Control the bleeding. You can do this by holding the injured part up (higher than the heart) and press a clean cloth or even your fingers if there is nothing else around, over the wound. This is called 'applying pressure'. If it is your friend who is hurt, get her to press her own fingers over the wound.
  • bandaidClean the wound. If this makes it bleed again, stop and apply pressure again.
  • Cover the wound with a sterile (very clean) dressing. If it's too big for one, use as many as it takes, or cover with a dressing pad and use plasters to hold it in place. (Of course if you have done a Junior First Aid course you will know all about using dressings and bandages.) If you haven't got any first aid stuff, cover the cut with a clean piece of cloth (like a clean and ironed hankie) and help your friend to raise the injured arm or leg up. You might use a jumper or jacket to rest it on.
  • Get help. If the cut is deep you need to get an adult to help. Send someone else if possible or, if your friend can walk, take her to her home or teacher, or to the nearest trusted adult.

If you are the person who has been injured, ask mum when you last had a tetanus shot (injection). The bugs that cause tetanus live in the ground. If your tetanus shots are not up to date, it will be a good idea to see your doctor and arrange one.

You will probably have had some when you were a baby, and another one before you started school. If you have had all of these, you will not need another one until you are in your first year at high school (year 8).

cuts and bruises

Very important

Some diseases can be caught from blood (such as Hepatitis B or C which are fairly common, or HIV/AIDS which is rare for Australian kids), so if the person hurt is not someone in your family and you know that they do not have these infections, then make sure that you do not touch any blood with your fingers.

Get the injured person to clean the cut and put on the dressing if possible, or put your hand in a plastic bag (if you haven't got plastic gloves) so that your skin does not touch their blood. Have a look at our topic First aid - bleeding.

It is possible for germs in someone else's blood to get into your body if you touch some blood when you have any scratches, tiny cuts or grazes on your hands and arms, so this is just to make sure that you are keeping safe. Most people who touch someone else's blood do not get an infection, but it is best to take a lot of care, so that you can be sure you are not at risk.

ambulance Make sure you get no blood on your hands
The germs in their blood may have other plans.
They might give us hepatitis
Get in your wounds and try to fight us.
Keep your hands safe with a plastic bag.
Unless you have plastic gloves they're not bad.

By Claire

Historical note

Did you know that people used spider's webs as dressings in the 'olden days'? They did this to help the wound stop bleeding. Of course the patient could have got germs from a dusty spider's web but they didn't know about germs then.

Some doctors thought it was a good idea to let the wound keep bleeding as they thought all the badness would go too. They even deliberately made people bleed when they were very sick to try and get rid of the badness in their blood.

They would cut the patient, or they would collect leeches from the river and put them on the body where the little creatures would happily suck up the blood.

Sometimes leeches are used nowadays, but they are specially bred 'medical leeches', not just collected from a river, and they are only used in very special circumstances.

Dr Kim says

Dr Kim
"It is good to know what to do if someone is hurt but remember that it is also important to keep yourself safe. Make sure you are in a safe place - not in the middle of the road - and protect yourself from germs by not touching anyone's blood and washing your hands really well after you have helped someone."



Answering your questions

Q. If you have a cut and it gets poked with a lead pencil, do you get lead poisoning?

  1. No you do not get lead poisoning because pencils do not have any lead in them. The part of the pencil that is used for writing is made of graphite, which is a form of carbon and does not cause any health problems

    Kids and sometimes adults often chew their pencils so the people who make them have to make sure that they are non-toxic (which means that they can't poison people.)

Q. Do all cuts leave a scar?

  1. Yes all cuts will leave a scar, but how big it is depends on how big the cut was and where it was. Small cuts may leave a scar so small that you cannot see it. (Eg. a paper cut). But if you get a big cut on your knee, there will be a scar that you can see. First it will look red and thick, but then it will become white, thin and usually smaller than the cut was.

    As you get older most scars get smaller and you don't notice them as much.

    Some people (often people with dark skin) may heal in a way that the scar gets thicker and raised up. These thick scars are called 'keloid' scars.

Q.Why does the doctor put stitches or glue in some cuts and not in others?

  1. Doctors usually put stitches or glue in big cuts, or cuts which are on skin that gets stretched when you move. If you have a cut on your knee, for example, each time you move, the edges of the cut will be pulled apart and healing will be a lot slower. Deep cuts also need stitches or glue as the tiny muscles under the skin may pull the edges of the cut apart and an open cut takes a lot longer to heal. Some small cuts on the face will heal very well if they are held together by strips of special sticky tape.

The glue that is sometimes used is a special glue which is made just to be used in cuts. Your glue stick will not do the job!

Q. Can you get the tetanus vaccine in a tablet or is it only an injection?

  1. The vaccine you need to prevent tetanus only comes as an injection.
    When you swallow something like food or some medicines, the acids in the stomach and the enzymes in the intestines break the big pieces into little pieces that can be carried around by the blood. A tetanus 'tablet' would break down to such small parts that it would not be able to work to protect us from tetanus.

Q. What are the symptoms of tetanus?

  1. Tetanus bacteria get into a wound and start growing. They make a poison which makes muscles go into spasm (get tight). Sometimes the first muscles to go into spasm are around the jaw, so that the mouth cannot be opened. This is why tetanus is sometimes called 'lockjaw'. Other muscles in the body also go tight so that the person cannot move. Have a look at the topic Tetanus.

    They cannot breathe by themselves either. Someone with tetanus usually needs to spend many weeks in an Intensive Care Unit in a hospital, having help with breathing and being looked after because they cannot look after themselves. Not all people with tetanus get better.

Ask mum or dad if your tetanus shots are up to date.

Q. How long should you leave the dressing on?

A. You can leave the dressing on for a couple of days, but your body is busy making a scab or natural cover over the wound very soon after the injury.  Exposing the scab to the air will help it harden so that it can protect the wound - so you can take the dressing off about a day after the injury. But if the wound is in a place where you might knock it you could leave the dressing on longer to protect the wound.
Don't try to pick the scab off - it will naturally come off when it has done its job helping the wound to heal.

Q. What do I do if the dressing gets wet?

A. If the dressing gets wet the scab under the dressing will also get wet and this means that it will not be helping the wound to heal as well as if it was dry. Ask mum or dad to help you take the dressing off. If it has been on for a couple of days you can probably leave it off so the scab can dry out and continue to help the wound under it to heal. But you may still need a dressing put back on it.

Gr-azy Kids

Round the corner he'll slide and skid.
That's my little brother, 'The Bandaid Kid'
Cuts and grazes he has a collection.
I think he does it for affection.
Every day he adds to his score.
Soon there'll be no room for more.
I was like that when I was smaller,
But now I'm six, and so much taller!



**Please Note: The brand names of products referred to in any of these health guidelines are not intended to be an exhaustive list of all commercially available products on the market. However, those names which are mentioned are well-known brands and readily available on the market in Australia.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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