Lacerations (Cuts) Without Stitches in Children
What is a laceration?
A laceration is a cut, tear or opening in the skin caused by an injury. These cuts may be small, and need only minor treatment at home. Or, they may be large enough to need emergency medical care.
How do I know if my child's cut needs stitches?
Cuts that don't involve fat or muscle tissue (superficial), are not bleeding heavily, are less than 1/2 inch long and not wide open or gaping, and don't 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 don't need stitches include:
Calm your child and let them know you can help.
Wash your hands with soap and water before and after caring for the cut.
Apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for several minutes to stop bleeding.
Wash the cut area well with soap and water, but don't 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 an infection and scarring. If your child keeps resisting water running over the wound, you can soak it in the bathtub or in a clean container.
Apply an antiseptic ointment.
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 and reapply the antiseptic ointment at least every 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:
Deep, gaping open and wide, or longer than 1/2 inch
Located on the face or close to the eye
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
Showing signs of infection, such as increased warmth, redness, swelling, or drainage
Linked to numbness or inability to move a finger or toe or a joint. These may mean 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 5 years, if you are unsure when your child's last tetanus shot was given, if your child has not received at least 3 tetanus shots to date, or if you are concerned about the wound and have questions.
Bleeding heavily and don't stop after 5 to 10 minutes of direct pressure. Put pressure directly on the cut with gauze or a clean cloth 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. Don't lift off the original cloth.
In addition to another injury, especially a head injury or broken bone
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MDRonald Karlin MDTara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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