Treating bites and cuts on your child’s lip or tongue

Any parent who’s cared for a child after an injury to the tongue or lip can testify that it can be a confronting experience for everyone involved.

Injuries to the lip and tongue tend to be common, occurring often during playground knocks and falls, through sporting activity, or just general childhood play.

They can also be quite dramatic, with a tendency to bleed and swell more than other injuries, thanks to the high degree of blood flow to the area.

The good news is that blood flow tends to mean they typically heal quickly, too. That said, there are things you can do to help – as well as things you need to keep an eye on

When you find a cut on your child’s lip or tongue

One of the challenges of assessing any damage to the lip or tongue after a cut or bite can be bleeding from the injury. It’s important to reassure your child as much as possible so that they stay calm.

  1. Apply clean cloth or bandage to slow blood flow
    If excess bleeding is a problem, apply a clean piece of cloth gently to the area to help slow down the flow of blood. Apply pressure for at least five minutes.
  1. Apply a cold compress
    Tongue and lip injuries can swell quickly, so it’s important to do what you can to reduce swelling in the area. Gently applying a cold compress will help. An icy pole can help reduce tongue swelling.
  2. Clean the wound
    As soon as possible, gently clean the wound. Our mouths are full of bacteria, so it’s important to keep the area as clean as possible to avoid infection. Gently remove any dirt or gravel from the area.

How should you help the healing process?

There are a few steps you can take to ensure the wound heals quickly and without scarring.

  • Keep the wound clean and dry.
  • Avoid feeding your child any food likely to aggravate the wound, including anything spicy.
  • Check the area every day for any signs it’s not healing properly.
  • Use a sunscreen on the area after it heals to prevent scarring.

When should you see a doctor?

You should take your child to a healthcare professional if bleeding persists after applying pressure to the area for five minutes.

Wounds that cross from the lip area into the cheek may require further treatment to heal properly, so should also be taken for assessment.

You should also call the doctor if:

  • The cut looks deep, as it may require stitches
  • The wound is embedded with dirt or gravel or needs extra cleaning
  • The tongue is punctured

Keep a close eye on the injury for signs of infection. Any infection will usually occur about four days after the injury itself. Look for tell-tale signs including fever, swelling, pus, redness or any signs that the injury is worsening rather than healing.

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