It's usually not too hard to tell which gashes need more help than can be found in your first-aid kit: anything that's more than a quarter-inch deep (especially on the head) or gapes open is usually worthy of stitches.
The Ouch Factor The blood, the gore, the idea of taking a needle and thread to the skin -- don't be surprised if there's anxiety from the minute your child's injured until the deed is done. And the needle delivering anesthesia can add (momentarily) to the pain. Smaller wounds may be glued instead of sewn shut, and that may sting, too.
On-the-Spot Soothers Ask if a topical numbing gel can be applied before the anesthesia is injected. "You have to wait half an hour for it to kick in, but it's worth it," Dr. Sonnett says.
Thinking Ahead Remember that cuts -- especially on the head or face -- bleed profusely. (Using a red or other dark-colored cloth to cover the injury may help ease queasies.) Then be honest about what's to come. "This way, your child can rely on what you say if something similar occurs in the future," Dr. Sonnett says. "I'd suggest something like 'The numbing medicine may pinch at first, but after that you won't feel anything.'?" And if you're going to head to the emergency room, try to grab some books, toys, or a music player on the way out -- you could be in for a long wait.