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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

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Laceration - Scalp (After Staples)
Laceration - Scalp (After Staples)

Wound Infection - Suture Site
Wound Infection - Suture Site

  • This topic covers common questions about sutures or stitches
  • Skin glue (Dermabond) is also covered

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • Not moving or too weak to stand
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Major surgical wound that's starting to open up
  • Bleeding that won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Suture came out early and wound has re-opened
  • Wound looks infected (redness, red streaks, swollen, pus)
  • Fever occurs
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Suture came out early and wound is still closed
  • Suture removal is overdue
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
  • Sutured wound with no complications and you don't think your child needs to be seen

  1. Suture Care for a normal sutured wound:
    • Keep sutured wounds completely dry for first 24 hours (4 hours for Dermabond skin glue). If needed, use a sponge bath.
    • After 24 hours, can take brief showers.
    • Avoid swimming, baths or soaking the wound until sutures are removed or Dermabond has fallen off. (Reason: Water in the wound can interfere with healing).
    • Apply antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin) 3 times a day (no prescription needed). Reason: to prevent infection and a thick scab. (Caution: don't apply any ointments or creams to Dermabond skin glue)
    • Cleanse with warm water once daily or if becomes soiled.
    • Change wound dressing when wet or soiled.
    • Dressing no longer needed when edge of wound closed (usually 48 hours). EXCEPTION: dressing needed to prevent sutures from catching on clothing.
    • For pain relief, give acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen as needed (see Dosage table).
  2. Removal Date: Guidelines for when particular sutures (stitches) should be removed:
    Face4-5 days
    Neck 7 days
    Arms and back of hands7 days
    Scalp7-10 days
    Chest, abdomen or back7- 10 days
    Legs and top of feet10 days
    Palms, soles, fingers or toes12-14 days
    Overlying a joint12-14 days
  3. Removal Delays:
    • Don't miss your appointment for removing sutures.
    • Leaving sutures in too long can leave unnecessary skin marks and occasionally scarring.
    • It also makes suture removal more difficult.
  4. Suture Out Early: If the sutures come out early, reinforce the wound with tape or butterfly Band-Aids until the office visit.
  5. Wound Protection: After removal of sutures:
    • Protect the wound from injury during the following month.
    • Avoid sports that could re-injure the wound. If a sport is essential, apply tape before playing.
    • Allow the scab to fall off naturally. Do not try to pick it off. (Reason: prevent scarring)
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Looks infected
    • Fever
    • Sutures come out early
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 8/1/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.