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Face Laceration: Stitches or Tape (Child)

A laceration is a cut through the skin. If it's deep, it may need stitches (sutures). Some stitches need to be removed by a healthcare provider. These are called nonabsorbable stitches. Others dissolve on their own and don't need to be removed. These are called absorbable stitches. Minor cuts may be treated with surgical tape.

Your child may also need a tetanus shot. This is given if your child is not up-to-date on this vaccine and the nature of the cut may lead to tetanus.

Home care

  • Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection. Follow all directions for giving this medicine to your child. Make sure your child takes the medicine until it's gone even if your child feels better unless told to stop. You should not have any medicine left over.

  • If your child has pain, give them pain medicine as advised by your child’s healthcare provider. Don't give ibuprofen to children age 6 months or younger. Never give aspirin to a child or teen. It could cause a rare but serious condition called Reye syndrome. Don’t give your child any other medicine without asking the healthcare provider first.

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

  • Wash your hands with soap and clean, running water before and after caring for your child. This helps prevent infection.

  • If a bandage was applied and it becomes wet or dirty, replace it. Otherwise, leave it in place for the first 24 hours, then change it once a day or as directed.

  • Caring for stitches. Clean the wound daily as directed by the healthcare provider. First, remove the bandage. Then wash the area gently with soap and clean, running water. Use a clean, 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. 

  • Until the stitches are removed, or the tapes fall off, 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.

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

  • Watch for the signs of infection listed below. Most facial skin wounds heal without problems. But an infection sometimes occurs even with correct treatment.

  • While the stitches or tape are in place, keep the wound out of prolonged direct sunlight, especially in the summer months. After the stitches are removed, or the tapes fall off, continue to stay out of direct sunlight, or use a sunscreen with a high level of protection. Sunburn or sun exposure can increase scarring.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If you have stitches, ask your provider about which type was used. For absorbable stitches, ask about how long it will take for the stitches to dissolve. For nonabsorbable stitches, ask how long stitches should remain in place and when to bring your child back to have the stitches removed. If surgical tape was used, you may remove them yourself when your provider recommends if they have not fallen off on their own. Surgical tape usually falls off in 7 to 10 days.

Special note to parents

Healthcare providers are trained to see injuries in young children as a sign of possible abuse. You may be asked questions about how your child was injured. Healthcare 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 your child's healthcare provider right away if any of the- following occur:

  • Wound bleeds more than a small amount or bleeding doesn't stop

  • Signs of infection occur:

    • Increasing pain in the wound. Babies may show pain with crying or fussing that can't be soothed.

    • Increasing wound redness or swelling

    • Pus or bad odor coming from the wound

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

    • Chills

  • Wound edges reopen

  • Stitches come apart or fall out or surgical tape falls off before 5 days

  • Wound changes colors

  • Numbness occurs around the wound 

Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2022
© 2000-2023 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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