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3 tips to avoid infections in simple cuts and scrapes

June 17, 2015
a bleeding scrap on an elbow

Playing outside is a normal part of growing up. Whether your kids are involved in organized sports a few nights a week or they just like to run around in the backyard whenever they can, exercise and fresh air are never terrible options for growing children.

However, some helicopter parents might want to protect their little ones a little too much, and even the idea of simple cuts and scrapes can be enough to make parents want to put a bubble around their kids. The fact of the matter is that the skin is an incredibly resilient organ, and even in kids, it'll heal itself before you know it. The real threat isn't cuts and scrapes themselves, but the risk of infection they bring. If you want to keep your kids safe from this real threat, either bring them to your nearest CareWell urgent care center the next time they scrape a knee or check out these three tips to prevent infections in simple wounds.

"You should wash your hands before even thinking about washing your kid's cut."

1. Scrub-a-dub
When your little one trips and scuffs up a knee or elbow, the first step in reducing the risk of infection is to clean the wound of any foreign debris that might contain bacteria. However, one overlooked part of this step is that your hands carry more microscopic organisms than any speck of dirt does, which means you should wash your hands thoroughly before even thinking about washing your kid's cut.

Infections only occur because germs get the opportunity to skip past the skin's outer layer and multiply in the moist, warm tissues underneath. Washing your hands is essentially like putting on a brand new pair of surgical gloves: It prepares you to do the job the right way.

2. Sooner rather than later
Some parents might not like to hear this, but there's no way to prevent every little microscopic germ from getting into even the smallest cuts and scrapes. You don't have to worry, though, because that's what the immune system is for. If only a small amount of bacteria manage to get into a cut, your kid's white blood cells will take care of the problem in no time.

If you have to wait for a first-aid kit or to drive all the way home, you give these bacteria the chance to multiply in the wound beyond the level that any immune system could handle. That's why it's important to clean the cut as much as you can as soon as possible. Even if it's just a wipe with a wet towel and a rinse with a bottle of water, this will give the body a head start on the infection-fighting process.

Cuts like this might look nasty, but infections make them even worse.
Cuts like this might look nasty, but infections make them even worse.

3. Know when to get help
Not all cuts and scrapes are created equal. A skinned knee or scuffed elbow is one thing, but if your kid took a particularly nasty fall that ripped clothing as well as skin, you need to know when your parenting skills aren't enough to clean a wound.

If you can see that any amount of fabric from clothes or other debris has made its way into the wound, you shouldn't try to remove it on your own, as you could do more harm than good. However, these kinds of cuts are at a much higher risk of infection than others, which means you should high-tail it over to your neighborhood CareWell urgent care center instead of going for the tweezers in the medicine cabinet at home.

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