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Lacerations Without Stitches

What is a laceration?

A laceration is tear or opening in the skin caused by an injury. Lacerations may be small, and need only minor treatment at home, or may be large enough to 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 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 in the wound.

First-aid for lacerations that do not need stitches include the following:

  • Calm your child and let him/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 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 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?

Specific treatment for lacerations that require more than minor treatment at home will be determined by your child's physician. 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. If the bleeding is profuse, hold pressure for five 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 the original cloth.
  • deep or longer than 1/2 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.

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Common Childhood Injuries & Poisonings

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