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Caring for Your Child’s Incision

You’ll need to help care for your child’s incision after surgery and certain medical procedures. To close an incision, your child’s health care provider used sutures (stitches), Steri-Strips, or staples. Follow the tips on this sheet to help heal and prevent infection of your child’s incision.

Types of incision closuresCloseup of incision with sutures. Closeup of incision with Steri-Strips. Closeup of incision with staples.

  • Surgical sutures (stitches) are placed by sewing the edges of an incision together with surgical thread. Sutures are either absorbable or non-absorbable. Absorbable sutures break down in the body over time. Non-absorbable sutures need to be removed.

  • Steri-Strips are made of adhesive (sticky) material to help hold the edges of an incision together. Steri-Strips usually fall off by themselves within 7 to 10 days.

  • Surgical staples are made of steel or titanium. They are often used to close shallow incisions. They are not used on certain body areas, such as the face and hands. This is because these areas have nerves that are close to the surface. Staples are usually removed within a week.

Home care for your child’s incision

  • Keep the incision clean and dry. Your child should bathe only as directed by your child’s health care provider. It’s OK to wash around the incision. But don’t spray water directly on it.

  • Check the incision site daily for pain, redness, drainage, swelling, or separation of the incision edges. Call your child’s health care provider if you notice any of the signs listed in the box below.

  • If your child has a dressing over the incision, change the dressing as directed by your child’s health care provider.

  • Make sure any clothing that touches the incision is loose-fitting. This will prevent rubbing. If the incision is on the head, keep your child from wearing caps or other head coverings. These may rub against the incision.

  • Keep your child from rough play, contact sports, or physical activities. This can put your child at risk of opening an incision.

  • As your child’s incision heals, the skin may appear pink or red. It may also feel slightly bumpy or raised. This is called a healing ridge. Over time, the color should fade and the raised skin will become less noticeable.

Call the doctor right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Increased pain, redness, drainage, swelling, or bleeding at the incision site

  • Numbness, coldness, or tingling around the incision site

  • Fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher


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