Wounds in children factsheet


Wound is a common word used for any cut, tear or break in the skin. 

Wounds can include:

  • lacerations – cuts and tears caused by trauma or being hit hard
  • punctures or bites – a deep wound from a sharp, pointed object like a tooth
  • abrasions, scrapes or grazes – when the top layer of the skin has been rubbed or worn off
  • cuts – slices in the skin caused by sharp objects like glass
  • blisters – tears under the skin that fill with fluid, caused by injuries, illness or rubbing.

Minor wounds can be common in children as they grow and become more active. They might get a cut or graze through rough play, sports and falling over on hard surfaces.

More severe wounds can be caused by physical trauma from accidents or abuse, animal bites and handling sharp objects.

 Signs and symptoms

Wounds are damage to the skin. Your child may have had a fall or accident that caused their skin to break.

A wound may be:

  • painful
  • red
  • swollen
  • bleeding.

Heavy bleeding can be a sign that a wound needs to be checked by a doctor as soon as possible.

See your local doctor or present to your nearest emergency department if your child:

  • has a deep wound
  • has a wound over a joint like a knee or elbow
  • has a wound close to the ye
  • is bleeding heavily or doesn’t stop bleeding
  • is in severe pain
  • has been bitten by an animal
  • has not been vaccinated for tetanus
  • has a condition or is taking medication that affects bleeding.

Call an ambulance on Triple Zero (000) if your child:

  • has difficulty breathing
  • loses consciousness or passes out
  • has chest pain
  • has a wound close to their eye.


Your child’s doctor will:

  • check the wound
  • ask some questions about how the wound happened.


Wounds need to be cleaned and closed to:

  • stop bleeding
  • prevent infection
  • help the skin heal itself.

More severe wounds may need treatment to:

  • remove foreign objects that are deep in the skin
  • keep movement in the affected body part
  • repair the look of the affected body part and avoid scarring.

Minor wounds like scrapes and small cuts can usually be treated at home. More severe wounds and lacerations may need treatment in the emergency department.

Your child’s doctor will choose the best wound closure option based on: 

  • the length and depth of the wound
  • where on the body it is
  • the risk of infection.


Treating minor wounds at home

Minor cuts and scrapes can be treated at home. Parents and carers must wash their hands with soap and water before treating a minor wound to prevent infection.

  1. use a clean cloth or gauze to press on the wound until bleeding slows or stops
  2. wash dirt away from the wound with saline from a first-aid kit, or clean water
  3. use clean tweezers, cloth or gauze to gently remove any bigger rocks or objects from the wound
  4. cover the cleaned wound with a band-aid, dressing or gauze held in place with a sticky bandage.

Minor wounds do not always need antiseptic creams or lotions. Speak to your local doctor if you are unsure, or the wound is not healing.

Adhesive strips

Adhesive strips are often used to close short wounds that are on the surface of the skin.

Adhesive strips should be left on for at least five days before they start to get loose and fall off. If the strip falls off before five days, you will need to put another one on.

Your child’s doctor might also use an adhesive strip over stitches to stop the skin from stretching as it heals.


Skin glues

A scab is hardened fluid and blood that forms over a wound as it heals. Skin glues are used to make an artificial scab over a wound to hold it together. A

Skin glue should not be touched once it has been applied. The glue will fall off once the wound has healed, within 5-10 days. 

Your child’s doctor may put an adhesive strip over the glue to protect it. Do not remove the adhesive strip as this can move the glue and reopen the wound.

Leave both the glue and adhesive strip alone until they fall off.


Stitches or sutures

Stitches are used to sew a wound closed. They are also called sutures.

In the emergency department, doctors will commonly use:

  • dissolvable stitches – made from fibres that dissolve into the body over time, after a wound has healed
  • non-dissolvable stitches – made from stronger fibres that do not dissolve and need to be removed by the doctor when the sound has healed.

Your child’s doctor will let you know which stitches are best, and how to take care of them.

Generally, non-dissolvable stitches will stay in:

  • face - five days
  • scalp, arms, legs, and hands - seven days
  • areas that are move, like joints - 10-14 days.


Hygiene and infections

When your child leaves the hospital, the doctor will give you some general information about caring for the wound. This includes:

  • keeping the wound dry for at least 48 hours
  • not letting the wound soak in water
  • avoiding swimming for at least five days, until sutures are removed or the wound is healed.

Dry dressings need to stay in place for around five days and must be replaced as soon as they become wet or dirty.

Regularly check your child’s wound for signs of infection, like:

  • swelling
  • redness
  • pain and tenderness
  • pus and other foul-smelling discharge coming from the wound
  • the wound reopening
  • fever.

Take your child to the nearest emergency department if they are showing signs of infection.


Healing wounds might have a raised, pink appearance. They will then start to flatten and fade within 6-12 months. Do not use any products on your child’s wound until it has finished healing. If you are unsure, check with your local doctor.

You can use adhesive or silicone scar tape over a healed wound for 4-6 weeks to help the skin and reduce the appearance of any scars. You can also use gentle massage with sorbolene cream and nutrient oils from your local chemist.

Healing skin is more likely to be damaged by the sun for the first 12 months after the wound has closed. Children should wear sunscreen and sun protection like a wide-brim hat to protect their skin and wounds from the sun.

If you have any concerns about the appearance of the scar, wait 12 months for the skin to settle and then see your local doctor.

Last updated Tuesday 23rd April 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024