Puncture Wounds in Children

What is a puncture wound?

A puncture wound is a deep wound made by a sharp object, such as a nail or a jagged piece of metal or wood. Puncture wounds may be small and not seem serious. But they do need to be treated by a healthcare provider.

Puncture wounds may become infected easily. This is because dirt and germs are carried deep into the tissues. Sometimes infection may be delayed, so it's very important to have your child see a healthcare provider right away for any puncture wound. Foot wounds that happen from punctures with objects found outside have a high risk for infection. Wounds that penetrate through a shoe can be contaminated with sock and shoe particles. In some cases, a piece of the object that punctured your child can break off and remain under their skin. Infections with bacteria that can cause long-term bone infections also happen often. 

First aid for puncture wounds

  • Calm your child and let them know you can help:

  • Do not try to remove large objects, like a knife or a stick, from a puncture wound. Get immediate medical care. These objects should be removed by a healthcare provider.

  • Put pressure on the wound for several minutes with a clean cloth or bandage to stop bleeding. If the bleeding is severe, push on it with pressure for 10 to 15 minutes. Don't stop to look at the cut. If the cloth becomes soaked with blood, put a new cloth on top of the old one. Don't lift the original cloth.

  • Once bleeding has stopped, wash your hands and then wash the area well with soap and water. Don't scrub the wound. Remove any dirt particles from the area. Let the water from the faucet run over it for several minutes.

  • Cover the area with an adhesive bandage or gauze.

  • Call your child's healthcare provider.

Call 911

Call 911 right away if the bleeding is severe.

Treatment for puncture wounds

Once a healthcare provider has seen your child, you will be given directions for how to care for your child's wound. Treatment at home will be based on the location and size of the wound, type of treatment needed, and any special needs noted by the healthcare provider. Antibiotics may be given to help prevent infection in the wound. A tetanus shot may be needed if your child's vaccines are not up to date. Your child may need an X-ray. This is to make sure that a piece of the puncturing material did not break off and stay under the skin.

Here are some general guidelines for caring for a puncture wound:

  • Keep the area clean and dry.

  • Carefully follow the healthcare provider's directions for care of the wound.

  • Make sure your child does not do any activity that may cause them to reinjure or open the wound.

  • Return for follow-up care as advised by your child's healthcare provider.

When to call the healthcare provider

Call the healthcare provider if there are any signs of infection. These include increased warmth, swelling, redness, fluid leaking, or pain. Your child may also develop a fever.

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