Lacerations without Stitches

  • What is a laceration?

    A laceration is tear or opening in the skin caused by an injury. If your child has a small laceration, he or she may only minor treatment at home. If your child has a large laceration, he may require emergency medical care.

    How do I know if my child's cut needs stitches?

    Lacerations that are superficial (do not involve fat or muscle tissue), are not bleeding heavily, less than one inch long and do not involve the face can usually be managed at home without stitches. The goals of caring for a wound are to stop the bleeding and reduce the chance of scarring and infection in the wound.

    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     fax: 617-730-0505

  • In depth text

  • First-aid for lacerations that do not need stitches

    • Calm and comfort your child by letting him know that you can help.
    • Apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for several minutes to stop bleeding.
    • Wash your hands well.
    • Wash the cut area well with soap and water, but do not scrub the wound. Remove any dirt particles from the area and let the water from the faucet run over the cut for several minutes. A dirty cut or scrape that is not well cleaned can cause scarring.
    • Apply an antiseptic lotion or cream.
    • Cover the area with an adhesive bandage or gauze pad if the area is on the hands or feet, or if it's likely to drain onto clothing. Change the dressing often.
    • Check the area each day and keep it clean and dry.
    • Avoid blowing on the laceration, as this can cause germs to grow.

    When should I call my child's physician?

    Your child's physician will determine specific treatment for lacerations that require more than minor treatment at home. In general, call your child's physician for lacerations that are:

    • bleeding heavily and do not stop after five to 10 minutes of direct pressure
    • deep or longer than an inch
    • located close to the eye
    • large cuts on the face
    • caused by a puncture wound or dirty or rusty object
    • embedded with debris such as dirt, stones, or gravel
    • ragged or have separated edges
    • caused by an animal or human bite
    • excessively painful
    • showing signs of infection such as increased warmth, redness, swelling or drainage

    You should also call your child's physician if your child has not had a tetanus vaccination within the past five years, if you are unsure when your child's last tetanus shot was given, or if you are concerned about the wound and have questions.

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