Should Your Child See a Doctor?
- This topic covers common questions about sutures or stitches
- Skin glue (Dermabond) is also covered
When to Call Your Doctor for Suture Questions
Call 911 If…
- Your child is not moving or is 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
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- 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
Home Care Advice for Sutures
- 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 prescriptio 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).
- Removal Date: Guidelines for when particular sutures (stitches) should be removed:
- Face: 4-5 days
- Neck: 7 days
- Arms and back of hands: 7 days
- Scalp: 7 days
- Chest, abdomen or back: 7-10 days
- Legs and top of feet: 10 days
- Palms, soles, fingers or toes: 12-14 days
- Overlying a joint: 12-14 days
- 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.
- Suture Out Early: If the sutures come out early, reinforce the wound with tape or butterfly Band-Aids until the office visit.
- 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)
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Looks infected
- Sutures come out early
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
- Knapp JF. Updates in wound management for the pediatrician. Pediatr Clin North Am. 1999; 46: 1201-1214.
- Shafi S and Gilbert JC. Minor pediatric injuries. Pediatr Clin North Am. 1998; 45:831-852.
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: 8/1/2010
Last Revised: 9/22/2010
Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.