Cuts and Wounds of the Face

Children may get cuts and wounds to the face while playing, climbing, or during sports activities. Most of these injuries can be handled at home with simple first aid treatment.


First aid for superficial cuts and wounds:

  • Calm your child and let her know that you can help.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for several minutes to stop the bleeding. Shield the eyes from any soap or antiseptics you may need to use on the wound.
  • Wash the injured area well with soap and water, but avoid scrubbing the wound vigorously. Remove any dirt particles from the area and let the water from the faucet run over it for several minutes. A dirty cut or scrape that is not thoroughly cleaned can lead to infection and scarring.
  • Pat excess water from the injured area and allow it to air dry. Do not scrub or dry vigorously as this may cause more bleeding.
  • Apply an antiseptic lotion or cream such as Neosporin.
  • Cover the area with an adhesive bandage or gauze pad. Change the dressing daily, or more often if it becomes soiled.
  • Check the area each day and keep it clean and dry. If there is no risk of the injury becoming easily soiled, it does not need to be covered but can be left open to the air.
  • Bruises, blisters, or swollen areas caused by trauma may be treated by placing an ice or cold pack on the area every 1 to 2 hours for 10 to 15 minutes each time, for the first 24 hours. Do not put ice directly against the skin; instead, wrap the ice in a towel or sheet. 
  • Apply an emollient and sunscreen (sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 15 or greater) daily on healed cuts and wounds to help prevent scarring.

When should I call my child's doctor?

Specific treatment for cuts and wounds of the face that require more than minor treatment at home will be determined by your child's doctor. In general, call your child's doctor for cuts and wounds of the face that are:

  • Still bleeding after 5 to 10 minutes of continuous, direct pressure. If the bleeding is profuse, hold pressure for 5 to 10 minutes without stopping to look at the cut. If the cloth becomes soaked with blood, put a new cloth on top of the old one; do not lift the original cloth. Keep in mind that facial and scalp injuries often bleed heavily, even under normal circumstances. Call the doctor if a wound or cut does not stop bleeding after 10 minutes or if bleeding recurs. 
  • On the eyelids or involve the eyes, nose or ear lobe.
  • Deep or longer than 1/2 inch.
  • Caused by a puncture wound, or a dirty or rusted object.
  • Embedded with debris or a foreign material, such as dirt, gravel, or glass.
  • Ragged or have separated edges.
  • Caused by an animal or human bite.
  • Associated with a broken or injured bone, or a head injury.
  • Showing signs of infection, such as increased warmth, redness, swelling, or drainage of pus.

Also call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has not completed her childhood vaccinations, has not had a tetanus vaccination within the past 5 years, or if you are unsure about when your child's last tetanus shot was given.
  • You are concerned about the wound or have any questions.

Preventing facial injuries

The following are a few guidelines for preventing facial injuries in children:

  • Teach your child not to poke or place objects in the ears, nose, or mouth such as cotton swabs or pencils.
  • Teach your child not to walk or run while holding an object in his or her mouth.
  • Teach your child not to suck or chew on hard, sharp, or pointed objects.
  • Have your child wear appropriate protective eye, ear, or face guards for sports activities that could cause injury.