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Cuts Left Open in Children: Care Instructions

Foot with cut


A cut can happen anywhere on your child's body. Sometimes a cut can injure the tendons, blood vessels, or nerves.

A cut may be left open instead of being closed with stitches, staples, or adhesive. A cut may be left open when it is likely to become infected, because closing it can make infection even more likely.

Your child will probably have a bandage.

The doctor may want the cut to stay open the whole time it heals. This happens with some cuts when too much time has gone by since the cut happened. Or the doctor may tell your child to come back to have the cut closed in 4 to 5 days, when there is less chance of infection.

If the cut stays open while healing, your scar may be larger than if the cut was closed. But you can get treatment later to make the scar smaller.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Keep the cut dry for the first 24 to 48 hours. After this, your child can shower if your doctor okays it. Pat the cut dry.
  • Don't soak the cut, such as in a bathtub or a kiddie pool. Your doctor will tell you when it's safe to get the cut wet.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your child's cut, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • After the first 24 to 48 hours, wash the cut with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the cut with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • Prop up the area on a pillow anytime your child sits or lies down during the next 3 days. Try to keep the area above the level of your child's heart. This will help reduce swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Help your child avoid any activity that could cause the cut to get worse.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new pain, or the pain gets worse.
  • The cut starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • The skin near the cut is cold or pale or changes colour.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness near the cut.
  • Your child has trouble moving the area near the cut.
  • Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the cut.
    • Red streaks leading from the cut.
    • Pus draining from the cut.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • The cut is not closing (getting smaller).
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.