Mom’s First Aid tips

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It’s a well-known fact that moms have a magic touch with boo-boos. But you can heighten your powers when caring for cuts and scrapes so they heal quickly:

Clean the area with water (whatever temperature’s comfortable for your child) to get rid of any debris. Then flush the wound with running water for at least 90 seconds — not the 10 to 15 seconds most of us do  — to wash away bacteria. It’s the pressure that’s most important for zapping germs, but if there’s no tap, use baby wipes or bottled water until you can get to a bathroom.

Wash gently with soap and water or, in a pinch, dishwashing liquid or baby-friendly liquid soaps. If you have antibacterial cleanser, use it (not a good idea for everyday use — bacteria can develop resistance over time  — but great now, when you really want to kill germs).

Pat it dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. If the wound’s still bleeding, apply pressure to the area for five minutes. You’ll be tempted, but don’t peek! Releasing it before the blood has had time to clot may make the cut bleed faster. If it’s still bleeding, reapply pressure for another five minutes. (If the blood flow hasn’t slowed after ten minutes, get medical help.)

Don’t disinfect with rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine. All three can sting or burn, and they’re just not needed. Plus, alcohol dries the skin (which can slow healing) and hydrogen peroxide inhibits the growth of healthy cells. Soap and water are enough.

Apply an antibiotic cream. Put it on as soon as the cut’s clean and each time you change the bandage, says Julie Winfield, M.D., a San Francisco-based pediatric dermatologist. She recommends one containing bacitracin (check the label).

Don’t allow a wound to air. That just creates a scab, slowing the skin from healing and increasing the chances of infection and scarring. And, let’s face it, kids tend to pick at scabs, making them dirty and opening them up. Exposure to the sun can also cause a scar to remain red longer and damage new skin cells during the healing process.

The seal that a bandage provides  — allowing some oxygen to get in while keeping the area moist  — is the best environment for regenerating new skin. Keep the boo-boo covered until it’s healed.

Check the wound daily (a clear bandage makes it easier to do this without having to put on a new one). Change the bandage only when it gets wet, dirty, or worn-out looking. If your child likes to peel it off, try a waterproof brand like Nexcare’s Tegaderm Transparent Dressing  — it’s thinner and harder to remove (it’s also see-through, so you can monitor healing). If it’s a cut on a foot or knee that keeps opening up, try Band-Aid Liquid Bandage or Skin Shield Liquid Bandage.

Ask about a tetanus shot, especially if it’s a puncture wound, which a child is more likely to get on her foot. This kind of cut makes it easier for tetanus, bacteria that can cause a debilitating disease, to get into the bloodstream. Kids 4 and under who’ve received all four shots of the combined diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine are protected. But if your child is over 4 years old and hasn’t had the DTaP booster (between ages 4 and 6), or is 10 or older, her immunity could be waning. Check with her doctor to see whether her vaccination should be updated.