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cuts and grazes on babies & toddlers: what’s the difference and how to treat baby grazes

4 minutes

07/09/2021

Babies are lots of things, but balanced isn’t one of them. No matter how much you watch them, they’ll still manage to fall over. Here, we explain what to do if your little one does suffer a graze or scrape during their wobbles for independence and how long you can expect their skin to take to heal. We also asked some WaterWipes mums and dads for their input…

  1. What is a graze?

  2. What’s the difference between cuts and grazes?

  3. Are grazes painful?

  4. How to treat baby grazes

  5. Dealing with cuts on your baby

1. What is a graze?

A graze is a very common minor injury in which the top layers of skin are scraped off. A graze might occur if you brush heavily against a rough wall, for example, or if you trip over on the pavement and fall awkwardly on your hands, knees or elbows.

Grazes are particularly common in active children, thanks to their love of things like bike riding and running games like tag. And, of course, babies when they’re first learning to walk (and after too – when they get a bit faster).

“My (very active) older children always seem to be covered in cuts and grazes, which they wear like a badge of honour, and I’ve grown (just about) used to that. When my newly-walking baby takes a tumble, however, I feel like the worst mum ever, even though I know she’s just finding her independence and that letting her safely explore is actually a good thing.” Eli, mum to Fran, 1, Elijah, 8 and Thomas, 11

To find out how you can encourage your baby to take those milestone-smashing first steps, read our hints and tips about baby learning to walk.

2. What’s the difference between cuts and grazes?

Unlike a graze, where only a few layers of skin are scraped off, a cut is where the skin is fully broken. While a graze may bleed, it’s usually only slightly and for a short amount of time, whereas a cut can produce what seems like a lot of blood, which can also take a while to stop (just ask anyone who’s ever had a papercut).

“How to treat grazes on a baby? Use my mother’s method. I was a real crier when I was a toddler apparently, so anytime I used to fall over she would offer me a strawberry, which I absolutely loved. If I stopped crying, then my injury was obviously a minor one, but if I kept crying then she’d know I was genuinely in pain. Nine-and-a-half times out of 10 I’d stop crying immediately! It’s a trick I now use with my own young children – and it works every time.” – Amy, mum to Freddy 1 and Alex, 4

3. Are grazes painful?

They can be initially (especially for a baby or toddler) as even though they’ve only taken off a few layers of skin, it’s still enough to activate the fine nerve endings in whichever part of the body they’ve hurt. This pain – which usually takes the form of a stinging feeling – tends to pass quickly though.

“You can’t beat a dab of ‘magic cream’ when it comes to healing a graze. And if your children are a little bit too old to believe in invisible elixirs, then kisses, cuddles and a colourful plaster (ideally with a dinosaur or pirate queen on it) work almost as well I find.” – Simon, dad to Jonah, 2 and Harry, 4

For more on the magical qualities of cuddles, read our baby bonding guide.

I always thought you should leave minor cuts and grazes to air dry, but apparently that’s an old wive’s tale. Wounds need moisture to heal I’ve learnt, so the best way to heal grazed skin is to always apply a plaster or dressing.

Kathrine, mum to Anker, 8 months

4. How to treat baby grazes

Although they’re nothing to worry about, grazes should still be cleaned up and cared for, as breaks in the skin (even small ones) are susceptible to nasty things like bacteria.

After calming your baby or toddler down with kisses and cuddles, wash your hands thoroughly, then gently clean the graze with a first aid cleansing wipe. This might sting a little, so if you are with another adult or a big brother or sister, ask them to distract your little one as best they can.

Once you’ve cleaned the affected area, apply a plaster – this will keep the wound moist, which will help with it healing up. For reference, for an average-sized scrape, the graze healing process usually takes around three to seven days.1

“I always thought you should leave minor cuts and grazes to air dry, but apparently that’s an old wive’s tale. Wounds need moisture to heal I’ve learnt, so the best way to heal grazed skin is to always apply a plaster or dressing.” – Kathrine, mum to Anker, 8 months

5. Dealing with cuts on your baby

If your baby suffers a cut rather than a graze, then the first thing you need to do is control the bleeding. You can achieve this by applying pressure to the cut with something absorbent like a tissue, cotton wool or kitchen roll.

Once the bleeding has stopped, wash the wound by running it under flowing tap water. Pat it dry with a clean towel or cloth, then cover it with a plaster.

After a few days, the cut should close and scab over, which means your little one’s body is doing its job and you can relax.

“From experience, cuts and grazes on babies heal remarkedly quickly. Baby skin really is something else!” Iestyn, dad to Shane, 1

If you found this guide on how to treat baby grazes helpful, you might like to take a look at some of the other features on our Parenting Hub? For example

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