If your child has had a cut, their wound may need to be either stitched (sutured) or glued.
There are many different stitch types and techniques. Sometimes dissolvable stitches are used, and sometimes stiches that need to be removed are used. Your doctor will advise you if your child has stitches that need to be removed.
A special glue (e.g. Dermabond) is another type of treatment used in hospitals and medical clinics to keep the edges of the skin together. It has the same effect as stitches, and only takes about a minute to apply and dry. The glue is transparent so you can see the wound.
Care at home
Your child's cut will be red, tender and swollen straight after stitching or gluing. These symptoms should clear as the wound starts to heal (after about two to three days).
Your child may need some simple pain relief (such as paracetamol) in the first couple of days following an injury. Speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist, or see our fact sheet
Pain relief for children.
All wounds, whether stitched or glued, will leave a scar. Initially the scar may be red or purple in colour, and will fade to light pink, white or nearly invisible over time. This may take up to a year.
It’s important to protect your child's wound from the sun by keeping it covered. To prevent the scar from darkening, use sunscreen on the healed wound for at least 12 months.
- Take care not to get the wound wet for at least five days. Keeping the wound dry will allow the skin to come together and start the healing process.
- Do not let your child go swimming until after the stitches have been removed and the wound is healed.
- Try not to let your child pick any scabs, crusts or dressings from the wound area. They will come away on their own, once the wound has completely healed.
- If the stitches come out and the wound is open (gaping) or it has been less than 48 hours since the wound has been stitched, see your GP or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
- Your doctor will tell you if your child has dissolvable stitches.
- Dissolvable stitches disappear by themselves and do not need to be removed. This may take up to two weeks, or longer in some cases.
- It is important to not get the wound wet for at least five days.
- Keep the wound dry. Your child may have a shower or a brief bath after 24 hours, but do not soak or scrub the wound until it has fully healed. Pat the wound dry with a towel after a shower or bath.
- Do not let your child go swimming or have a soak in the bath for seven days.
- Do not let your child rub, scratch or pick at the glue or the wound. If adhesive tape (e.g. Steri-Strips) has been applied over the glue, allow it to fall off naturally. Do not pick it off as this may cause the wound to open. The glue may take up to three weeks to
completely fall off your child's wound.
- Do not use creams or ointments over the glue or near the adhesive tape. This may cause the glue to soften and come off.
When to see a doctor
Take your child to see your GP if there are signs the wound is becoming infected. These include:
- the wound becomes more swollen or red around the edges and the redness spreads to the surrounding skin or is hot to the touch
- your child develops a fever
- the wound smells or there is pus (this is usually yellow or green in colour).
Also see a GP if:
- the glue has come off or a stitch/stitches fall out and the wound is open (gaping) or bleeding
- you are worried for any reason.
If your child’s stitches are not dissolvable, you will need to make an appointment to see your GP to get the stitches removed (an appointment may have been made when the stiches were put in). Your emergency doctor or nurse will advise you when to do this. The time for removal of
stitches varies depending on where on the body they are, but it is usually between five to 10 days. It is important to get your child's stitches taken out on the correct day, as leaving them in for longer may lead to unnecessary scarring.
Key points to remember
- Keep the wound dry for five days, and protect the wound from the sun.
- Do not allow your child to pick or scratch at the stitches/glue or dressings.
- Take your child to the GP if the wound becomes more red or swollen, if it smells or there is pus.
- Take your child to the GP if a stitch falls out and the wound is bleeding or open.
- See your GP to get the stitches removed (unless other arrangements have been made) in the time specified.
For more information
Common questions our doctors are asked
What can I do to stop my child scratching at her stitches?
When wounds are healing, it is natural for them to become
itchy. If your child is old enough to understand, explain that if they scratch
they will prevent the cut from healing properly, and that scratching might make
the scar worse. For young children and babies, wearing mittens may help prevent
them from scratching.
Are staples ever used in children?
Although they are commonly used in adults, staples are
rarely used on children. They may be used for larger cuts. If staples are used
on your child, caring for the staples is similar to caring for non-dissolvable
stitches. A GP will be able to remove your child's staples.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Emergency department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
This information is awaiting routine review. Please always seek the most recent advice from a registered and practising clinician.
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