Laceration of an Arm or Leg: Stitches or Tape (Child)

A laceration is a cut through the skin. If it's large or deep, it may need stitches or staples to close the wound so it can heal. Minor cuts may be closed with surgical tape. 

X-rays may be done if something may have entered the skin through the cut, such as glass or rocks. Your child may also need a tetanus shot if he or she is not up-to-date on this vaccination.

Home care

Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent infection. Follow all instructions for giving this medicine to your child. Make sure your child takes the medicine every day until it's gone, or your told to stop, even if your child is feeling better.

If your child has pain, you can give him or her pain medicine as advised by the healthcare provider. Don't give your child aspirin.  In rare cases, it can cause serious problems in children 15 years of age and younger.  Don’t give your child any other medicine without talking with your healthcare provider first.  

General care

  • Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions on how to care for the cut.

  • Wash your hands with soap and clean, running water before and after caring for your child's cut. This is to help prevent infection.

  • Leave the original bandage in place for 24 hours or as directed. Replace it if it becomes wet or dirty. After 24 hours, change it once a day or as directed.

  • Caring for stitches or staples: Clean the wound daily. First, remove the bandage. Then wash the area gently with soap and clean, running water, or as directed by your child’s provider. Use a wet cotton swab to loosen and remove any blood or crust that forms. After cleaning, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment, if advised. Then put on a new bandage.

  • Caring for surgical tape: Keep the area dry. If it gets wet, blot it dry with a clean towel. Surgical tape usually falls off within 7 to 10 days. If it hasn't fallen off after 10 days, you can take it off yourself. Put mineral oil or petroleum jelly on a cotton ball and gently rub the tape until it's removed.

  • Explain to your child in an age appropriate way what you are doing as you care for the wound. Let your child help when possible. For example, have him or her hand you the towel or pat the area dry.

  • Make sure your child does not scratch, rub, or pick at the area. A baby may need to wear scratch mittens.

  • Don't soak the cut in water. Have your child shower or take sponge baths instead of tub baths. Don’t let your child go swimming. 

  • If the area gets wet, gently pat it dry with a clean cloth. Replace the wet bandage with a dry one.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider. Make a follow-up appointment to have the stitches or staples removed, if directed.

Special note to parents

Healthcare providers are trained to see injuries such as this in young children as a sign of possible abuse. You may be asked questions about how your child was injured. Health care providers are required by law to ask you these questions. This is done to protect your child. Please try to be patient.

When to seek medical advice

Call the child's healthcare provider for any of the following:

  • Wound bleeding is not controlled by direct pressure

  • Signs of infection. These includ increasing pain in the wound, increasing wound redness or swelling, or pus or bad odor coming from the wound.

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by the child's healthcare provider 

  • Chills

  • Stitches or staples come apart or fall out or surgical tape falls off before 7 days

  • Wound edges reopen

  • Wound changes colors

  • Numbness occurs around the wound 

  • Decreased movement occurs around the injured area

© 2000-2021 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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