Further Reading

Cuts and Scrapes: How do I Know if my Child Needs Stitches?

Cuts and Scrapes

by Maria Diaz, MD, FAAP

An active and curious child may get some scrapes and cuts. Don’t panic. Just examine the area, keep pressure on it if it is bleeding, and once the bleeding stops, then clean the area.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Almost all active bleeding can be stopped by applying direct pressure with a clean gauze or cloth over the site for five or ten minutes. The most common mistake is interrupting the pressure too early to peek at the wound.” If blood soaks through the gauze, do not remove it. Apply another gauze pad on top and continue applying pressure. When there is no more bleeding, you can clean the area carefully with soap and water to clean out dirt and debris. The suggested time for cleansing is five minutes. Then, use some antibacterial ointment and cover it with a bandage or sterile gauze.

Change the bandage if it gets wet. After the wound forms a scab, no bandage is needed. Check the wound every day, and call your doctor if the wound becomes red, swollen, tender, or draining pus.

When it comes to stitches, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that, “Cuts that go all the way through the skin may benefit from stitches. Any cut that is gaping open with visible dark red muscle or yellowish fat and/or is more than ½ inch long should probably be closed. Cuts smaller than this may not require closure, but if they are gaping, then it is best to have them checked out. Most cuts can generally be closed before 24 hours after the injury. Some cuts should be closed sooner, but it is safe to wait up to 8 hours to have it closed.”

There are many options these days to close a cut: skin glue, steri-strips, stitches, and staples. Your provider will determine what is the best option in your case.

Call your doctor or get immediate medical care if:

  • You can’t stop the bleeding after 5 minutes of pressure, or if the wound begins bleeding again.
  • You can’t clean out dirt and debris well.
  • The wound is on the child’s face or neck.
  • The wound was caused by an animal or human bite, a burn, electrical injury, or puncture wound (e.g., a nail).

Always call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.