I work with children who sometimes get cuts when they play. How can I tell whether to treat the cut with a Band-Aid and some Neosporin or take the child to a doctor? I wonder because one kid had a cut that had gone a little greenish and smelled bad, but the hospital said that it just needed cleaning.
Most minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises heal on their own. Our skin, which is a very important barrier to the entry of germs and parasites, has excellent infection-fighting and healing properties. However, any cut or scrape that penetrates that barrier risks allowing bacteria into the less well defended subcutaneous tissue. So, how do you decide which ones can be safety treated at home?
Scrapes, although very painful and often bad-looking, seldom require skilled attention. Although the surface layer of skin is scraped off, no penetration usually occurs into the subcutaneous tissue, and the skin will rapidly heal itself. Keeping the injured area clean and dry is the best way to avoid infection. The scrape should be gently but thoroughly washed to remove any dirt or debris and then left alone. Do not put on a tight bandage, because that will keep the surface moist, increasing the likelihood of infection. I do not favor using antibiotic creams, such as bacitracin or neosporin. The scrape should be looked at from time to time, gently washed in the course of ordinary bathing, pat dried, and left as open as possible.
Cuts are more complicated, because it can be difficult to determine how deep they are and at what point suturing might be required. Basically, any cut where the wound edges are gaping open — even if it doesn’t become infected — will heal with a scar. This may not matter if it’s on the leg but could be very important if it’s on the face. Suturing a gaping cut will reduce the width of the scar and the likelihood of infection.
If the cut is in an area that is not cosmetically important and is not through the entire skin layer (no yellow fat is visible), then all you need to do is clean it with water to remove dirt and put on a bandage. To reduce scarring, apply the bandage across the cut to bring the edges close together. Again, the area should be kept dry. I do not recommend applying iodine, mercurochrome, or any antibiotic creams.
Any laceration revealing fat in its depths or located in a cosmetically important area should be evaluated by a physician.
The information contained in or made available through This Site cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in the medical field. We do not recommend any treatment, drug, food or supplement. You should regularly consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.