How to Care for your Child's Picc (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter)
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.
A PICC can stay in place for several weeks or months. You will need to care for the PICC, and for the skin around the catheter site. Proper care is important to prevent damage to the catheter, and to prevent infections.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:
- Your child feels lightheaded, short of breath, or has chest pain.
- Your child has trouble breathing.
- Your child coughs up blood.
Return to the emergency department if:
- Blood soaks through your child's bandage.
- Your child's arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- Your child has trouble moving his or her arm.
- Your child's catheter falls out.
Call your child's doctor if:
- Your child has a fever or swelling, redness, pain, or pus where the catheter was inserted.
- You see a tear in the tubing of your child's catheter.
- You see fluid leaking from the insertion site.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
Prevent an infection:
The area around your child's catheter may get infected, or he or she may get an infection in his or her bloodstream. A bloodstream infection is called a central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). A CLABSI is caused by bacteria getting into your child's bloodstream through the catheter. This can lead to severe illness. The following are ways you can help prevent an infection:
- Wash your hands and your child's hands often. Use soap or an alcohol-based hand rub. Clean your hands before and after you touch the catheter or the catheter site. Remind anyone who cares for your child's catheter to wash his or her hands. Teach your child not to handle or play with the PICC.
- Limit contact with the catheter. Do not touch or handle your child's catheter unless you need to care for it. Do not pull, push on, or move the catheter when you clean his or her skin or change the dressing. Wear clean medical gloves when you touch the catheter or change dressings.
- Keep the area covered and dry. Keep a sterile dressing over the catheter site. Wrap the insertion site with plastic and seal it with medical tape before your child bathes. Have your child take showers instead of baths. Do not let your child swim or soak in a hot tub.
How to change the dressing and clean the area:
Change the dressing every 3 to 7 days, or as directed. Change the dressing any time it becomes wet, dirty, or moves out of place. Always change the bandage in a clean area that is free of dust. Check your child's skin every day for signs of infection, such as pain, redness, swelling, and oozing.
- Wash your hands. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Put on clean medical gloves and a mask. Pick up each folded glove by its cuff and put it on one at a time. Touch only the cuff when you put a glove on. Do not touch the outside of the gloves with your bare hands. Do not let them touch anything. If someone is helping you, that person also needs to wear a mask and gloves.
- Carefully remove the clear bandage. Unsnap your child's line from the area holding it in place. Use rubbing alcohol or saline to remove the tape, if needed. Remove your gloves and throw them away. Wash your hands again, and put on new clean medical gloves.
- Open the bandage kit. The kit will contain a sterile disposable pad. Carefully unfold the corners of the pad and lay it out on a clean surface. Empty the contents of the bandage kit away from you onto the pad.
- Open the cleaning pads from the kit. Use a cleaning pad to scrub the area where the catheter is inserted into your child's skin. Scrub the area as directed. Start at the insertion site and clean outward from it in circles. Let the area dry. Do not blow on your child's skin to help it dry.
- Use a new cleaning pad to scrub the tubing that comes out of your child's skin. Use a downward motion to clean the tubing. Do not go up and down the tubing. You might get germs into the tubing when you go back up.
- Secure the line. Place the pad that fits around the insertion site as directed. Place the tape bandage under your child's catheter line to secure it to his or her skin. Snap the line in place. Apply a new dressing as directed. If the dressing is clear, make sure you can see the insertion site.
How to care for the caps and tubing:
Change the caps every 3 to 7 days, or as directed.
- Wash your hands. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand gel.
- Twist the caps to remove them from the end of each port. Wrap an alcohol pad around the port. Scrub the end of the port in a twisting motion for 30 seconds. Place a new cap on the end of the port. Follow the same steps for each port if your child has more than one.
- Place protective caps over the injection caps, if directed. The caps will protect your child's catheter from infection when it is not being used.
Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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