Skin Injuries

Parenting in the Early Years

Skin Injuries

The following information can help you know what to do when your child experiences a burn, laceration, abrasion or other skin injury.


Three types of burns are recognized:

First-Degree Burns

First-degree burns, characterized by redness of the skin, are usually caused by steam, sun over-exposure or brief contact with hot objects. The pain is mild to moderate. Do not cover the burn Instead immerse the area in cold water until the pain subsides. The burn can be left open or lightly bandaged. A moisturizer may be applied.

Second-Degree Burns

Second-degree burns are more painful and develop a fluid-filled blister. These can also be immersed in cold water and cold compresses can be continued. Do not break the blisters. These will need to be bandaged. If the area is small, you can do this at home. Larger burns will require a physician evaluation.

Third-Degree Burns

Third-degree burns are the most serious and are caused by direct contact with flame, contact with electrical currents or very hot objects. The underlying tissue is exposed and there may be very little pain. These burns require immediate medical evaluation.


Immediate bleeding is expected with all lacerations, but frequently seems more severe when the scalp or face is involved. Pressure to the wound with a cold or ice compress will slow the bleeding.

When skin is cut exposing either the fat or muscle layer below, it is necessary to repair the skin to provide optimum healing. You can tell if the skin is cut all the way through by pulling the edges apart to expose the tissue below the skin. If the cut is not deep, cleansing with soap and water and a bandage will suffice.

If the cut is deep (through the skin), contact your doctor's office to arrange for repair of the laceration.


Scrapes and road burns are usually not serious. They need to be carefully cleaned to remove dirt and debris. This is best accomplished with a soap and water scrub. It is important to scrub thoroughly!

If not thoroughly cleaned, permanent scars can be left. These wounds can often be left open to air dry, but can be bandaged if there is too much oozing. Application of an antibiotic ointment may reduce possible infection.

Tetanus Shot

Tetanus is a part of the DTaP childhood immunization series of shots completed at age five. Updates are needed periodically thereafter. For outdoor (dirty) wounds a booster is required if it has been five years since the last shot or the childhood series has not been completed. If the wound was in a manure contaminated environment, a Tetanus booster may be given regardless of the last booster date.