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Wound care

What is a wound?

A wound is a break in the skin caused by a laceration (cut), abrasion (scrape), puncture, or incision (an opening made during surgery or a medical procedure). Some wounds need stitches to close.

All wounds heal by developing a scar. The scar can be kept smaller by removing stitches at the right time, preventing infection, and protecting the wound from being hurt while healing. Sunscreen can prevent darkening of the scar.

How do I care for the wound?

Cleaning the wound

Gently clean the stitches or wound as instructed with soap and water. Do this 2 times a day until the stitches are removed or the wound is healed. Clean using a circular motion. Pat dry after cleaning.

After each cleaning, apply a small amount of plain petrolatum, such as Vaseline®, to the stitches or wound. Do this for 2 or 3 days.

For stitches on the face, plain petrolatum should be used until they are removed.

Covering the wound is not necessary after 24 hours, unless you are told otherwise.

 Changing the dressing (bandage):

  1. Prepare a clean work area by cleaning a solid surface with household cleanser (such as Lysol® or another brand) and laying a clean towel on it.
  2. Wash your hands well with soap and water, or use an alcohol hand sanitizer.
  3. Gather supplies:
    • dressings (gauze or other bandages)
    • tape (cut into strips)
    • ointment, if prescribed
  4. Open dressing package.
  5. Remove old dressing. Look at wound and any drainage on old dressing.
  6. Put old dressing into waste container.
  7. Wash hands again.
  8. Clean wound as above.
  9. Put on new dressings, smallest to largest.
  10. Tape in place.

What else do I need to know?

No swimming or tub baths while stitches are in place. Showers are fine. Do not let the wound get wet unless the doctor says it’s OK.

No active play or contact sports; take care to protect the wound for _________________.

For 1 year after the scar heals, apply sunscreen when in the sun to prevent darkening of the scar.

When should stitches be taken out?

Some stitches are under the skin and dissolve on their own. Other stitches need to be removed. How long the stitches stay in depends on the location and size of the wound.

Stitches should be removed in ___________ days by your child’s doctor. Call the office for an appointment as soon as possible so this can be done on the correct day. Stitches removed too late can cause more scarring. If any stitches come out early, apply a dressing and call the clinic.

When should I call the clinic?

Call if a wound has any signs of infection:

  • more redness
  • red streaks coming from the wound
  • more swelling
  • more pain
  • bad smell from the wound
  • pus or other drainage from the wound
  • swelling or numbness below the wound
  • cannot move the joint below the wound
  • fever higher than 101° F (38.4° C)

Other instructions:



This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the clinic.

Reviewed by Skin Integrity Team 9/2016

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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