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Laceration in Children


A laceration

is an injury to your child's skin and the soft tissue underneath it.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Injury or wound to skin and tissue of any shape size that looks like a cut, tear, or gash
  • Edges of the wound may be close together or wide apart
  • Pain, bleeding, bruising, or swelling
  • Numbness around the wound
  • Decreased movement in an area below the wound

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has heavy bleeding or bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of holding firm, direct pressure over the wound.
  • Your child's stitches come apart.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has a fever or chills.
  • Your child's pain gets worse, even after taking medicine for pain.
  • Your child's wound is red, warm, or swollen.
  • Your child has white or yellow drainage from the wound that smells bad.
  • Your child has red streaks on his or her skin near the wound.
  • Your child has pain that gets worse, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for a laceration

The treatment your child will need depends on how large and deep the laceration is, and where it is located. It also depends on whether your child has damage to deeper tissues. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Wound cleaning may be needed to remove dirt or debris. This will decrease the chance of infection. Your child's healthcare provider may need to look in your child's laceration for foreign objects. He or she may give your child medicine to numb the area and decrease pain. The provider may also give your child medicine to help him or her relax.
  • Wound closure with stitches, staples, tissue glue, or medical strips may be needed. These may help the wound heal and prevent infection. Your child's healthcare provider may need to give him or her medicine to numb the area and decrease pain. The provider may also give your child medicine to help him or her relax. Stitches may decrease the amount of scarring your child has. Some lacerations may heal better without stitches.

  • Medicine to treat pain or prevent infection may be given. Your child may also be given a tetanus shot. Wounds at high risk for tetanus infection include wounds caused by a bite, or that contain dirt. Your child may need a tetanus shot within 72 hours of getting a laceration. Tell your child's healthcare provider if your child has had the tetanus vaccine or a booster within the last 5 years.

Care for your child's wound as directed:

  • Your child's wound should not get wet until his or her healthcare provider says it is okay. Do not soak your child's wound in water. Do not allow your child to go swimming until his or her healthcare provider says it is okay. Carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. It is okay to let soap and water run over the wound. Gently pat the area dry or allow it to air dry.
  • Change your child's 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 child's wound.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment as directed. You may be told to apply antibiotic ointment on your child's wound if he or she has stitches. If your child has strips of tape over the incision, let them dry up and fall off on their own. If they do not fall off within 14 days, gently remove them. If your child has glue over the wound, do not remove or pick at it when it starts to heal and itches.
  • Check your child's wound every day for signs of infection such as swelling, redness, or pus.
  • Apply ice on your child's wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel before applying it to the wound. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Have your child use a splint as directed. A splint may be used for lacerations over joints or areas of your child's body that bend. A splint will decrease movement and stress on your child's wound. It may also help it heal faster. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to apply and remove a splint.
  • Decrease scarring of your child's wound by applying ointments as directed. Do not apply ointments until your child's healthcare provider says it is okay. You may need to wait until your child's wound is healed. Ask which ointment to buy and how often to use it. After your child's wound is healed, use sunscreen over the area when he or she is out in the sun. You should do this for at least 6 months to 1 year after your child's injury.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Your child may need to return in 3 to 14 days to have stitches or staples removed. 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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.