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A laceration is an injury to the skin and the soft tissue underneath it. Lacerations happen when you are cut or hit by something. They can happen anywhere on the body. Your healthcare provider may close your laceration with stitches, staples, tissue glue, or medical strips. These may help to keep the wound from getting infected. Stitches may decrease the amount of scarring you have. Some lacerations may heal better without stitches.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have heavy bleeding or bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of holding firm, direct pressure over the wound.
  • Your wound opens up.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your laceration is red, warm, or swollen.
  • You have red streaks on your skin coming from your wound.
  • You have white or yellow drainage from the wound that smells bad.
  • You have pain that gets worse, even after treatment.


  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your wound as directed:

  • Do not get your wound wet until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Do not soak your wound in water. Do not go swimming until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Carefully wash the wound with soap and water. Gently pat the area dry or allow it to air dry.
  • Change your bandages when they get wet, dirty, or after washing. Apply new, clean bandages as directed. Do not apply elastic bandages or tape too tight. Do not put powders or lotions over your incision.
  • Your healthcare provider may give you antibiotic ointment to put over your wound if you have stitches. If you have strips of tape over your incision, let them dry up and fall off on their own. If they do not fall off within 14 days, gently remove them. If you have glue over your wound, do not remove or pick at it. If your glue comes off, do not replace it with glue that you have at home.
  • Check your wound everyday for signs of infections such as swelling, redness, or pus.


  • Apply ice on your wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Use a splint as directed. A splint will decrease movement and stress on your wound. It may help it heal faster. A splint may be used for lacerations over joints or areas of your body that bend. Ask your healthcare provider how to apply and remove a splint.
  • Decrease scarring from your wound by applying ointments as directed. Do not apply ointments until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You may need to wait until your wound is healed. Ask which ointment to buy and how often to use it. After your wound is healed, use sunscreen over the area when you are out in the sun. You should do this for at least 6 months to 1 year after your injury.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to follow up in 24 to 48 hours to have your wound checked for infection. You will need to return in 3 to 14 days if you have stitches or staples so they can be removed. Care for your wound as directed to prevent infection and help it heal. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.