Everybody gets cuts, and some cuts are bigger than others.
That's why a lot of kids need stitches at one time or another -
usually on their face, chin, hands, or feet.
Stitches aren't for scratches. They're for bigger
that probably wouldn't heal well on their own. You might take a
fall and hit your head or step on something sharp - ouch! Or you
and get an incision, a cut a doctor makes.
That's where stitches come in. They join the sides of the
cut together so that it can heal. If you need stitches, you
don't need to worry, but you do need to take care of the
stitches until the skin heals.
What Are Stitches?
are loops of string that doctors use to join the edges of a cut on
your skin. It's a lot like sewing fabric together. But after a
few days or a week, the skin heals and the stitches come out.
Once the edges are touching, the
ties a knot in the string so your skin will stay that way until it
heals. Doctors have many different kinds of string called
-churz), including some made of nylon, silk, and vicryl (say:
-kril). Vicryl string actually dissolves in your skin, so you
don't even need to get those stitches removed. This kind of
string is used mostly on the lips or in the mouth.
Another way of closing a cut is to use glue! Sometimes, if a cut
isn't too long or wide, the doctor will use special skin glue
to keep the cut's edges together until it heals. It usually
falls off by itself in 5 to 10 days.
Another option for tiny cuts is a small sticky strip called a
bandage. It keeps the cut's edges together for a few days, and
then it usually comes off in the bath.
Why Would a Kid Need to Get Stitches?
Kids need stitches if they have a
that wouldn't grow back together well on its own. This could
happen if you trip, step, or fall on a rock, a piece of glass, or
on a sharp corner or edge. If you have
, you'll also need stitches.
How Does a Doctor Put Stitches In?
If you need stitches, the doctor will start by cleaning your cut
with sterile water, which is squirted into the cut to remove
harmful germs and dirt. The doctor will then wipe the edges with a
-tant), which also helps to keep it from getting an
. The doctor also will make sure that whatever cut you (such as
glass) isn't still in the cut.
You're probably wondering if this will hurt. Actually, you
won't feel much pain at all. The nurse or doctor will first
numb the area with a gel or cream or by using a very small shot.
These substances, called anesthetics (say: ah-nis-
-ticks), make you numb so you don't feel pain. It's a lot
like the medicine used to numb your mouth when you have a cavity
Using a very tiny needle, the doctor will sew your cut together
with the sutures. Although the area will be numb, you might feel a
tug as the doctor pulls the stitches together. Stitches are done
the same way at the end of surgery. If you get these at the end of
surgery, you won't feel it - you won't even be awake!
How Does a Kid Take Care of Stitches?
Your doctor will tell you how to care for your stitches. It's
important to follow the directions carefully with your mom's or
dad's help. Different kinds of stitches - sutures, glue, and
butterflies - need different kinds of care.
The doctor probably will tell you to keep your cut dry for at
least 1 to 2 days. Most stitches should not get wet. Some cuts with
stitches need to be covered with an antibiotic (say: an-ty-by-
-tik) ointment and a bandage to prevent infection. Glue, on the
other hand, shouldn't be coated with ointment. It's
important that you don't tug or pull on the stitches, even if
they get itchy. And don't ever try to take the stitches out by
If you notice that you've popped or torn a stitch, or if
your cut is hot, red, swollen, or oozing
(a yellowish or greenish thick liquid), be sure to tell a parent.
You may need to see the doctor to check if the cut is infected.
Getting the Stitches Out
Dissolving stitches, glue, and butterflies come out or off on
their own. The doctor or nurse has to remove other kinds of
stitches. The stitch is cut at the knot, and the little string is
pulled out. You may feel a bit of pulling, but it won't hurt.
It takes a lot less time to remove stitches than it does to put
them in. And once the stitches have been removed, your skin will be
The doctor will tell you how to care for your skin after the
stitches have been removed. You may be told to avoid getting direct
sun on the area of skin for a while. The doctor also might give you
a cream for your skin to make the scar better. Before long, it will
probably be hard to see the place where your cut used to be. Most
importantly, your skin will be totally healed!
Updated and reviewed by:
Kate Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: April 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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