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Causes of abrasions in children

Children get abrasions all the time. This is because they like rough-and-tumble play, and they also fall over a lot.

Younger children fall over because their heads are heavy in proportion to their bodies, which makes them unsteady on their feet. They also often like to climb everything they see!

Older children and teenagers often get abrasions from sport.

When to see a doctor about abrasions

You should take your child to your GP or a hospital emergency department if:

  • the abrasion is deep and doesn't stop bleeding, even when you apply firm pressure
  • there's a lot of dirt, gravel or pieces of wood, metal or glass in the abrasion
  • it's a large abrasion with rough or jagged edges
  • you're unsure whether your child is up to date with his tetanus immunisation.
It's important to have a home first aid kit. Your first aid kit should be organised, well stocked and handy. Make sure everyone in your family knows where it's kept, and that everyone can get to it easily. You can buy first aid kits from your local pharmacy or from providers like St John Ambulance.

Treatment for abrasions

What to do straight away
Most of the time you can treat your child's abrasions at home using your home first aid kit:

  1. Clean abrasions immediately. Put the affected area under cool running water to remove any dirt or small rocks.
  2. Use saline or a very diluted amount of antiseptic solution to clean the wound. This might sting, but it'll help prevent infection.
  3. Clean the surrounding skin with clean gauze or a hand towel soaked in warm water. Cotton wool can leave fibres in the wound, so it's better not to use it.
  4. Always wipe away from the wound, rather than wiping towards it. This way, you'll avoid getting any more dirt in the wound.

If the wound is bleeding, apply direct pressure for 15 minutes. If the wound keeps bleeding, even when you apply firm pressure, contact your GP or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

If the wound isn't bleeding, put a thin smear of a plain moisturiser or ointment like Vaseline on it. Cover the wound with a sterile, non-stick dressing.

What to do over the next few days
Over the next few days, it's important to keep the wound clean and help it to heal:

  • Wash, moisturise and change the dressing daily to help the crust heal.
  • After 2-3 days, leave the wound open to the air.
  • When your child has a bath or shower, take off the dressing and let the water run over the abrasion.
  • Remind your child not to pick at the crust. If the crust breaks, the healing process has to start all over again, and there's an increased risk of infection and scarring. The crust will eventually fall off in the shower or bath.
In the days after the injury it's important to watch the wound for signs of infection. These signs include redness (especially if the redness keeps spreading), pain, swelling, warmth and pus. See a doctor if you notice these signs.


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