Lacerations (Cuts) Without Stitches

What is a laceration?

A laceration is cut, tear or opening in the skin caused by an injury. These cuts may be small, and need only minor treatment at home. Or, may be large enough to need emergency medical care.

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

Cuts that do not involve fat or muscle tissue (superficial), are not bleeding heavily, are less than 1/2 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.

First-aid for cuts that do not need stitches include:

  • Calm your child and let him or her know 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 result in an infection and 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 is likely to drain onto clothing. Change the dressing at least two times a day and whenever it gets wet or dirty. 

  • Check the area each day and keep it clean and dry.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

If your child's wound needs more than minor treatment, see your child's healthcare provider or go to your local urgent care center, or emergency room. In general, call your child's provider for cuts that are:

  • Bleeding heavily and do not stop after 5 to 10 minutes of direct pressure; If the bleeding is heavy, hold pressure for 5 to 10 minutes without stopping to look at the cut. If the cloth becomes soaked with blood, put a new cloth on top of the old one. Do not lift off the original cloth.

  • Deep or longer than 1/2 inch

  • Located close to the eye

  • 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

  • May involve additional injury, especially a head injury or a broken bone

  • Associated with numbness or inability to move a digit or a joint. These may indicate injury to a nerve or tendon, or both. 

You should also call your child's healthcare provider if your child has not had a tetanus shot 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.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RNPerez, Eric, MD

Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2017

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.