Kids Health Info

Wound care

  • A wound is a break in the skin caused by a laceration (cut), abrasion (scrape), puncture, blister or incision (opening made during surgery or a medical procedure). Some wounds need stitches or glue to close them.

    Caring for your child's wound is important to promote healing, avoid infection and minimise scarring. There are a number of things you can do to help your child's wound heal and prevent infection.

    Different types of wounds require different dressing products and care. Your doctor or nurse will provide specific instructions and discuss a home dressing management plan.

    Helping your child's wound heal

    • Wash your hands. The most important thing you can do to prevent infection is wash your hands. You can wash your hands with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based hand rub. Always wash them before and after touching your child's wound.
    • Keep a clean and dry dressing on your child's wound. Dressings keep out germs and protect the wound from injury. A dressing keeps the wound warm and moist so it can heal. Most dressings can be left on for several days. It is recommended that swimming or baths are avoided until the wound has healed (showers are preferred). Use lukewarm water when showering your child. If using soap, try to use a product that is pH neutral and unperfumed. If the dressing gets wet it will need to be removed and replaced with a clean dressing.
    • Encourage a healthy diet. A balanced diet will give your child the building blocks their bodies need to heal a wound.
      • Protein provides building material for muscle and skin repair
      • Carbohydrates supply's the energy needed for healing.
      • Milk and dairy products are good sources of carbohydrates  and protein
      • Foods with Vitamin A  supports skin repair and immune system
      • Foods with Vitamin C assists in collagen production and supports immune system


    Milk & Dairy


    Vitamin A

    Vitamin C

    Lean Pork

    Lean Beef










    Wholegrain Breads

    Wholegrain Cereals




    Fruit & vegetables


    Bright Orange Fruits

    Bright Orange Vegetables

    Dark Leafy Vegetables





    Citrus Fruits





    • Be careful and try to prevent things bumping or putting pressure on the wound.Try to avoid active play or contact sports until the wound has healed.
    • Protect your child's wound from the sun. Keep the wound covered and use sunscreen on the healed wound.

    At home care

    If your child has been admitted into hospital they may come home with unhealed areas that still require dressing changes. You will be instructed how to change dressings before you leave hospital. If your child's dressing is complicated you will be given a Specialist Clinics appointment, have nurse visits organised or be asked to visit your local doctor.

    Dressing changes should take place in a clean area of your home. Whoever is doing the dressing change should:

    • Always wash hands well before and after changing the dressings
    • Place the new dressings on a clean area and open before removing the old ones
    • Try to avoid touching the wound as much as possible
    • Look for signs of infection
    • Be gentle if bathing burned skin

    Simple wound care following an operation

    • After your child's operation a dry waterproof dressing is usually applied before you go home. This is normally a clear, sticky dressing which is placed over another dressing. Your child will be able to have a shower if the dressing is waterproof. Baths should be avoided until instructed by your doctor to resume (usually by six weeks depending on the wound), but showers are okay.
    • Never leave a wet dressing on a wound - if the dressing becomes wet it should be removed immediately and replaced.
    • The dressing can be removed one to two weeks after surgery (unless you are told otherwise). You can see your local doctor for a wound check or, if you feel confident, you can remove the dressing yourself. If the wound appears well healed a new dressing is not needed.
    • If surgical tapes begin to loosen at edges, trim curling edge. Allow surgical tapes to wear off on their own.
    • Sutures (stitches) are usually dissolvable; this means that they do not need to be removed. If the sutures are non-dissolving, you will need to return to your local doctor or surgeon to have the stitches removed (specific instructions will be provided). Usually white coloured sutures are dissolvable and black or blue ones are not.
    • Use sunblock on healed wounds to prevent darkening of the scar for at least a year after the scar has healed.
    • For patients having neurosurgery:
      • Waterproof dressings are not used; the dressing should be kept dry at all times. Your child can have a bath or shower but must keep their head dry
      • Dressing will be removed 10 days after surgery
      • If there is any signs of infection or fluid coming from the wound, immediately contact the hospital switchboard on (03) 9345 5522 and ask to speak to the neurosurgical registrar

    Wound infection

    All wounds are potentially at risk of developing an infection. It is important to recognise the signs of wound infection as early as possible:

    • The skin around the wound becomes red and may be hot to touch
    • Large or increased amounts of discharge from the wound
    • A pimple or yellow crust has formed on the wound
    • Change in discharge colour - may change from clear to yellow or green
    • The wound has a unpleasant smell
    • Your child has an increased temperature or develops a fever and generally feels unwell
    • Your child experiences increased pain

    If any of the above symptoms occur please contact your local doctor, treating doctor or nurse at The Royal Children's Hospital as soon as possible.

    Follow up

    Depending on your child's condition, the treatment received, where you live and whether you are a private or public patient; an appointment will be made for your child to either attend our Specialist Clinics, visit a private consultant, or a referral will be sent to your local doctor for follow up.

    Some patients with more complex wounds may be referred to our Hospital in the Home program and receive home visits from an RCH@Home nurse.

    Key points to remember

    • Always wash your hands before and after touching your child's wound
    • Protect the wound were possible
    • Follow the instructions given to you prior to discharge
    • Recognise the signs of infection and seek medical advice when present
    • Contact your local doctor, call the RCH Specialist Clinics on (03) 9345 6180, or take your child to your nearest hospital emergency department if you have any concerns

    For more information

    Key contacts

    Individual information

    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Nursing Services, in consultation with Dermatology, Divison of Medicine and Division of Surgery. First published: May 2012 

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.