Small or Superficial Laceration: Not Stitched

A laceration is a cut through the skin. A laceration requires stitches or staples if it's deep or spread open. A small laceration often doesn't require stitches. 

You may need a tetanus shot. This may be given if you have no record of or are not up to date on this vaccine and the object that caused the cut may lead to tetanus.

Home care

  • Follow all instructions for medicines.

    • Your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic. This is to help prevent infection. Take the medicine every day until it's gone, even if you feel better, or you are told to stop. You should not have any left over.

    • The healthcare provider may prescribe medicines for pain. Use the medicine as directed.

  • Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions on how to care for the cut.

  • Wash your hands with soap and clean, running water before and after caring for cut. This helps prevent infection.

  • Keep the wound clean and dry. If a bandage was applied and it becomes wet or dirty, replace it. Otherwise, leave it in place for the first 24 hours, then change it once a day or as directed.

  • Clean the wound daily:

    • After removing any bandage, wash the area with soap and water. Use a wet cotton swab to loosen and remove any blood or crust that forms.

    • After cleaning, keep the wound clean and dry. Talk with your healthcare provider before applying any antibiotic ointment to the wound. Reapply a fresh bandage.

  • You may remove any bandage to shower as usual after the first 24 hours, but don't soak the area in water (no tub baths or swimming) for the next 5 days.

  • If the area gets wet, gently pat it dry with a clean cloth. If using a bandage, replace it with a dry one.

  • Don't do activities that may reinjure your wound.

  • Don't scratch, rub, or pick at the area.

  • Check the wound daily for signs of infection listed below.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Wound bleeding not controlled by direct pressure

  • Signs of infection. These include increasing pain in the wound, increasing wound redness or swelling, or pus or bad odor coming from the wound.

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

  • Wound edges reopen

  • Wound changes colors

  • Numbness around the wound 

  • Decreased movement around the injured area

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© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.