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Safety and Injuries > Stitches or Staples

Stitches or Staples

Some cuts need stitches or staples to help the skin heal. Stitches and staples help pull the edges of a cut together so it can heal better.

Stitches are a special type of thread. Staples are a metal material. After the cut heals, a doctor or nurse will need to take out the stitches or staples. If they are left in too long, they can cause the skin to become infected or can cause more scarring.

Once stitches or staples are removed, protect the area from re-injury. If the area breaks open, it is not advised to close again with glue, stitches, or staples because of infection risks.

When your child had a cut that has been stitched or stapled:

  • Keep the cut area and dressing clean and dry until the stitches or staples are removed.
  • Gently wash the area with mild soap and water if it becomes dirty. Do not rub. Pat the area dry. Put a clean dressing or Band-Aid over the cut, if needed.
  • Do not let your child go swimming or soak the cut area in bath or dish water until after the stitches or staples have been removed.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment to the area twice/day to decrease scab formation over the area (which makes it more difficult to remove the stitches/staples).

Check your child and the cut area every day for signs of infection:

  • Fever greater than 101.5°F. (38.6°C.).
  • Red streaks in the skin around the cut.
  • Yellow or green thick liquid oozing from the cut.
  • Increased pain or soreness to the cut area.
  • Cut area is warm (or hot) to touch.
  • Swelling in area of cut.

Removal of stitches or staples:

  • Taking the stitches or staples out on time is important for the cut to heal with less scarring. Areas under a lot of tension (such as a knee) need longer healing before removal.
  • Your child should return to our office as directed to have the stitches or staples removed. In general we remove stitches or staples after the following amount of time:
    • Face: 3-5 days
    • Scalp: 5-7 days
    • Eyelid or eyebrow: 3-5 days
    • Trunk: 5-7 days
    • Extremities (arms/legs): 7 days
    • Joint (such as knuckle, knee, elbow): 10-14 days
    • Hand: 7 days
    • Foot sole: 7-10 days
  • After stitches or staples are removed, keep the area clean. You may apply a topical antibiotic ointment to the area until the scab is healed if there are no steri-strips. If there are steri-strips, simply allow them to fall off on their own over the next week.
  • To decrease scarring: Vitamin E oil or Mederma applied 2-4 times/day may decrease scarring. It is very important to protect this area from the sun for the next several months with clothing or sunscreen.

Call to have your child seen for an appointment if:

  • Your child shows any signs of infection (see above).
  • The stitches or staples fall out before his return appointment.
  • The cut breaks open and bleeds.

This page adapted from Children's Mercy Care Cards.

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