How to apply a butterfly bandage

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Butterfly stitches are not exactly stitches but are instead thin strips with an adhesive backing that can be used to close small wounds. They can be called steri-strips and butterfly bandages and are made by a number of companies. They may be used by doctors or in the home setting, though a doctor should examine any wound that is questionable. Butterfly stitches are best used on v-shaped wounds to close the edges of the wound together.

When you use butterfly stitches, you should be certain that you are working with a clean, disinfected wound. You should therefore start preparation by gently cleaning the wound with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. You can’t use antibiotic ointments with these stitches since they won’t adhere to the wound. You should also not use them on areas that easily get sweaty, oily, or are subject to a lot of movement.

Once you have thoroughly cleaned the wound area, you can treat it with an antiseptic spray. Solarcaine® is a good choice though it can sting and a young child may not cooperate. Before applying the stitches make sure the wound is fully dry.

With clean hands, gently close the edges of the wound together, and begin applying the strips. They should be close together for maximum wound closure but should not overlap. Many suggest starting in the middle of the wound when applying butterfly stitches and working outward to each side. When you have closed the wound, do put two strips on each side of the stitches to keep them in place. These should overlap the stitches but should run perpendicular to the strips and parallel to the wound.

You can place an additional protective dressing after you have applied butterfly stitches. Simply place a non-stick wound pad over the stitched area and tape. Make sure the pad extends far past the stitch area. This way when you remove the pad to examine the stitches, you don’t accidentally remove the stitches.

You should leave the strips on for five to seven days, but since butterfly stitches are partly transparent, you can still examine the cut daily to look for signs of infection or signs that the strips are not closing the wound properly. If the wound continues to bleed after applying the stitches, it requires stronger, more traditional stitches. Any pronounced redness of the area, red streaks emanating from the wound, a cut that feels hot to the touch and/or is swollen may be infected. Should you suspect infection or the need for stronger stitches, do seek medical attention.

You should try when possible to keep the area with butterfly stitches dry to promote better healing. Getting the stitched area wet can stimulate bacterial growth increasing chance of developing infection. If you do get the area wet by accident but the strips still adhere, allow the area to air dry or gently pat it with a cotton cloth or towel to soak up extra moisture.

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

You should absolutely not be putting peroxide or alcohol on your wound! They can harm the tissue and delay healing. The peroxide yes, kills some germs but also kills your fibroblasts which are supposed to help you heal. Alcohol will burn, irritate possibly cause itching and inflammation in your wound. you should clean it under running water if it has stopped bleeding and if there are multiple debris still in it you need to go to the doctor.

You can use antibiotic cream with steri strips you just have to put it on the wound, not glop it all over your skin. The center of the steri strip (the part that goes over the wound itself) will be fine if you get some on it. Then watch for redness, red lines going toward the body, pus and other signs of infection. Once it’s closed you can put ice on to bring down any swelling. anon944559 April 8, 2014

I was hit by a big stick on my eye and I got my eyebrow cut. It has been five days and the doctor put butterfly stitches in. Will it leave a scar forever? anon145104 January 21, 2011

in reply to anon3301, your son’s scar will stay the same size, and will probably appear to shrink. I had a scar made by a hole in my cheek. I got the hole when I was about 10 or 11, and the scar has moved from the middle of my cheek to below my jawbone. It’s nearly invisible. TuckerDwight June 15, 2009

My parents used butterfly stitches on my leg when I was 3 years old (I’m now 26) to close a cut that, in hindsight, she should have had a doctor stitch up. But at the time they did not realize the severity of the wound. I would *highly* suggest that you use some of the scar diminishing cream after you remove your son’s butterfly stitches. The cream is expensive but well worth it. I have since used it on other small scars of mine and it has helped to diminish the appearance of the scars greatly. Since your son is still so young I would think that you would get great results from using some of the scar cream. anon30251 April 15, 2009

My son just suffered a cut on his head from playing on chairs. We ended up giving him butterfly stitches. I would suggest putting neosporin on the wound after it heals enough and using cocoa butter if it still shows after a few weeks. anon3301 August 22, 2007

My 1year old infant had to have 10 butterfly stitches applied to his face after an accident. Any idea if the scar or stitches will show after he gets better? Or if the scar will grow with him as he gets older?

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Do you have a butterfly bandage in your first aid kit?

A first-aid kit should include a variety of bandages to treat a wide range of cuts.

A butterfly bandage is one type of bandage that you should have in your first-aid kit. This can be utilized to treat a moderate injury.

Here are some guidelines on when and how to use a butterfly bandage.

Butterfly Bandage

Table of Contents

When to Use a Butterfly Bandage

A butterfly bandage may be used to close a minor cut that is deep but not wide.

It should be utilized on a straight, not jagged wound.

A gapping wound of that sort might remain open. To promote healing and minimize scarring, a butterfly bandage can be used to seal the injury.

A butterfly bandage is most effective on a wound that measures less than two inches in length.

More than one bandage can be used to close a cut that is longer than two inches.

You might be asking why you should get a butterfly bandage now…

How to Use a Butterfly Bandage

It is not necessary to go to the emergency room for stitches if your wound is minor.

Many of these injuries can be readily treated at home with a butterfly bandage, as many people are surprised when the doctor in an ER uses a butterfly bandage rather than stitching them up.

It’s a good idea to get familiar with butterfly bandages since when you go camping in the woods with your family, there aren’t any ERs nearby!

How To Close A Gaping Wound

You can save time (and money!) by knowing how and when to use a butterfly bandage if you know how and when to apply one.

There are four main ways to close a gaping wound.

  1. Skin glue: This first-aid procedure can only be used on minor cuts that aren’t too wide. The glue keeps the surface skin together, allowing healing to take place beneath it. Sutures, also known as stitches, are a type of surgical closure that is popular among veterinarians and surgeons alike. A sterile needle is used to sew the skin together with suture material (usually silk or nylon), which is often referred to as braiding.
  2. Staples: Staples are utilized for deep wounds with sharp edges. They’re frequently used in regions where skin isn’t as thick, such as scalp lacerations. Traditional stitches are faster and easier to apply than staples. Adhesive bandages, instead of stitching the skin together, keep both sides of the wound in place.

When You Should Not Use Adhesive Bandages

They should NOT be used when:

  • The wound is jagged.
  • The skin of the wound is being stretched (as in a knuckle or elbow injury, which would be pulled whenever you moved your fingers or arm).
  • The wound is quite significant, extending beneath the skin into fat or muscle tissue.
  • Even after pressure has been applied, the wound continues to leak.
  • When you are worried about scarring.
  • When the wound is from an animal bite.
  • If you’re not sure whether the wound is clean or if anything has been caught in it.

How to Apply a Butterfly Bandage

Step 1: Stop the blood flow

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Stop the blood flow by applying pressure, preferably with a clean compression pad/gauze, when treating any wound.

Step 2: Clean and disinfect the wound

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Use clean water to flush any debris out of the wound.

Step 3: Apply the bandage accros the width of the cut

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Start on one side and wrap the bandage around the wound.

After that, press the skin together to close up the cut, then apply the other side of the butterfly bandage to the skin on the opposite side.

Step 4: Apply additional bandages

The first butterfly bandage should be centered over the wound. Some people like to apply extra bandages even if the injury is minor.

They approach this one from angles, making an X over the initial bandage. This technique allows for greater skin capture, which helps hold the wound in place better.

Step 5: Apply antibiotic

You want to apply topical antibiotic ointment on areas of the wound that have not yet healed and different parts of your body.

You’ll need to reapply the antibiotic ointment once or twice a day.

Step 6: Cover the wound with gauze and adhesive (optional)

To keep the bandage in place and the wound clean, cover it with gauze and tape.

What to Do after You Apply a Butterfly Bandage

If you use a butterfly bandage to wrap a cut, maintain the bandage on until it peels off on its own.

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Butterfly bandages are adhesive bandages that can be used in place of sutures to close a laceration under some conditions. A laceration is a break in the skin caused by a sharp object or puncture of some kind. Butterfly bandages are easy to make and use.

Under normal conditions, treat a laceration at home only if it’s small, shallow, and the skin along the laceration matches up perfectly (and remains together when undisturbed). If possible, you should see the doctor for lacerations where:

  • The cut is gaping.
  • The edges can be pulled more than 1/8 inch apart with traction on nearby skin.
  • The cut is over a knuckle. the cut is on the face or genitals.
  • The cut might be contaminated with foreign material the cut was caused by human or animal teeth.
  • There is numbness, deep pain, or inability to move a part fully.

Butterfly bandages do not work well over moveable joints such as your knee, knuckle or elbow. These may require sutures because the movement of the joint will pull on the cut and cause it to gape. If you decide to treat a sharp laceration over a moving surface (such as knee, elbow, or knuckle), you need to provide protection against motion for the first few days.

If possible, deep lacerations need to be looked at by a doctor and probably sutured. Lacerations of the face that may cause disfigurement need to be looked at by a doctor and possible sutured.

How to make and apply a butterfly bandage

  • Cut off a piece of tape that is about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches in length.
  • Fold the piece of tape in half so that the non-sticky sides are against one another.
  • Cut a small triangular notch on one side of the tape, beginning about a quarter of the way down from the folded edge and cut angling up toward—but not all the way to—the center of the folded edge.
  • Repeat on the other side, cutting a triangular notch that matches the one you just cut.
  • Unfold the tape so the sticky side is facing up.
  • The tape should look like it has a bow-tie shape in the middle.
  • Fold the center flaps across the middle of tape, sticky side in, so they overlap. This will prevent the adhesive from sitting directly on top of the wound.
  • Apply the bandage by sticking one end of the tape on one side of the wound, gently holding the edges of the wound together, pulling the tape across the wound, and sticking its other end in place.
  • The narrow middle of the tape should be positioned over the edges of the wound.
  • If the wound is long, make and apply as many butterfly bandages as needed along its length.

How to apply a butterfly bandage

How Long Should You Leave a Butterfly Bandage on a Cut?

If you’re treating the cut at home, leave the butterflies on until they peel off on their own. Keep the wound covered with a dry dressing and keep it clean. Avoid bumping the area. It can take as long as 10 and 14 days before the cut is healed

Watch for:
See the doctor if there is redness around the wound, red streaks, swelling, drainage, fever, tender bumps in the groin or armpit upsteam from the wound, or an unexplained increase in pain or tenderness.

How to apply a butterfly bandage

A butterfly bandage is a kind of adhesive bandage that is used to hold wounds closed in order to either keep them as clean as possible until they can be treated and stitched closed by a medical professional or to keep them closed as they heal. Unlike adhesive bandages that are meant to cover superficial injuries such as blisters, scrapes, and minor burns and cuts, a butterfly bandage is often used for deep cuts that have penetrated several layers of skin. The reason that a butterfly bandage is named thusly is that it has two “wings” of adhesive material that attach to either side of a wound and a thinner center which bridges the wound.

Like many other kinds of adhesive bandages, the butterfly bandage comes in a number of sizes so that multiple kinds and sizes of wounds can be dressed using this type of bandage. The bandages can be purchased in boxes of each size or in boxes that include a mix of small, medium, and large sizes of the bandage. Bandages in a few different sizes are often kept in first aid kits along with other types of adhesive bandages, sterile cotton, sterile gauze, triple antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, and medicine for pain relief and the reduction of inflammation.

The “wings” of a butterfly bandage vary in their design according to the bandage manufacturer. Some are quite angular in shape while others are very rounded and look more like actual butterfly wings. The shape of the wings on a butterfly bandage may alter the effectiveness of the bandage. Very thin wings, for example, may not do as well to keep a wound closed as larger wings. Sometimes bandages with smaller wings are used so that they are less noticeable on areas such as the face.

While a butterfly bandage may be used to temporarily close deep wounds, it is important to have serious or even moderately serious wounds treated by a medical professional. A medical professional will be able to assess whether the wound can be kept closed using a butterfly bandage alone or if it will require stitches. Also, it is important to have a medical professional assess whether the wound has been contaminated and if the patient will require oral antibiotics or injections to fight off infection or another type of illness that may be the result of the wound.

Start on one side apply the bandage press the skin together to seal the cut and then lightly apply the other side of the butterfly bandage to the skin on the other side of the cut. Butterfly bandages are sometimes also called butterfly closures.

How to apply a butterfly bandage Duct Tape Genius Emergency First Aid Make Butterfly Bandages Carry On Hikes Emergency First Aid Butterfly Bandage

Apply this half on one side of the wound.

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Butterfly bandage how to use. Use additional bandages as necessary to make sure the whole wound is covered. While holding the skin together stretch the bandage over the wound like a bridge. How to apply a butterfly bandage before you apply the butterfly bandage you should clean and disinfect the wound.

Avoid stretching the skin. A butterfly bandage is a kind of adhesive bandage that is used to hold wounds closed in order to either keep them as clean as possible until they can be treated and stitched closed by a medical professional or to keep them closed as they heal. Apply the bandage across the width of the cut.

It works best on a cut having a size less than two inches in length. Then use one or more bandages at a time depending on the size and depth of the cut. Start on one side apply the bandage press the skin together to seal the cut and then lightly apply the other side of the butterfly bandage to the skin on the other side of the cut.

Keep the wound covered with a dry dressing and keep it clean. Remove the backing from half of the butterfly bandage. Apply the bandage to pull together both sides of the cut.

Then remove the paper from the other half of the bandage and stick the bandage to the other side of the wound. It can take as long as 10 and 14 days before the cut is healed. Butterfly stitches also known as steri strips or butterfly bandages are narrow adhesive bandages that are used instead of traditional stitches sutures to close small shallow cuts.

Place a butterfly bandage across the cut so it s sealed shut. Butterfly stitch bandage is used on a straight wound. It is also used in the open wound.

Avoid bumping the area. If you have a small shallow cut that you want to close use butterfly bandages. If you re treating the cut at home leave the butterflies on until they peel off on their own.

These types of bandages are used to close the wound to promote the healing process and reduce the risk of scarring. You can use more than one butterfly bandages if the cut is longer than two inches. If the wound is long make and apply as many butterfly bandages as needed along its length.

Secure the bandage by putting another butterfly bandage above and below the main one. Once you ve decided that you don t need stitches clean the wound with cool water.

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Knowing when it's safe and when to leave them alone

Jennifer Schwartz, MD, is a board-certified surgeon and Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Yale School of Medicine.

After certain surgeries that require incisions, like hysterectomies, Healthcare providers will sometimes apply bandages called Steri-Strips (which are also known as butterfly closures or butterfly stitches). They are applied to hold the superficial part of an incision together during healing.

If you’ve recently undergone surgery, you may be told to wait until they fall off naturally, or alternately, told to remove them after a certain number of days. If it’s the latter, you will want to take a few precautions to prevent reopening the incision and causing an infection.

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Laura Porter / Verywell

About Steri-Strips

Steri-Strips are essentially small pieces of tape but ones that cling to the skin better than ordinary tape. They are usually used to close superficial rather than deep incisions. For example, absorbable sutures may be placed to close most of an incision and then Steri-Strips used to hold the superficial layer of skin in place.

From a medical standpoint, Steri-Strips are a wonderful invention. They can hold together small, contoured areas of the body that require an incision until the site heals. They can also reduce the scarring that traditional sutures might produce (called "ladder rung" scars).

The challenging issues are that many people are uncertain about how long they should be left in place. And, once it's time, it can be a struggle to remove them.

Always follow your healthcare provider's orders even if the Steri-Strips are itchy or irritating. If your healthcare provider didn't provide you with specific instructions about when to remove the strips, call the office and avoid making potentially harmful assumptions.

In some cases, a surgeon will apply extra adhesive (such as tincture of benzoin) to ensure the Steri-Strips remain securely in place. If so, they will likely need to be removed in the surgeon's office with an adhesive remover.

How to Remove Steri-Strips

We've all heard that the best way to remove a band-aid is with a speedy, yanking motion. But the same logic does not apply to Steri-Strips. Butterfly stitches are much more adhesive than standard band-aids. If you tug at them forcefully, you will likely do more harm than good.  

When it is time to remove your Steri-Strips:

    with soap and water, cleaning under your nails.
  1. Gently peel each strip from one end, a tiny bit at a time.
  2. While you pull the strip, take your other hand and place your thumb and forefinger on both sides of the incision to keep the skin stable. Do not pinch the skin as this may open wound.
  3. Slowly pull the strip back horizontal to your skin until it reaches the incision point. Do not pull vertically as this increases tension on the skin.
  4. Now repeat the process on the other side. Take your time.
  5. Once complete, pinch both ends of the strip with your fingers and lift gently.
  6. If the strips are scabbed over and adhered to the skin, do not pull. You don’t want to remove the scab.
  7. If the strip is stuck, you can take a dampened cotton ball and gently dab the area of adherence. Do not soak the scab as this may cause it to fall off prematurely. Now, wait 30 seconds and see if you can remove the strip without resistance.
  8. If you cannot remove the strip easily, leave it be. To avoid accidentally snagging the loose ends, take a clean pair of nail scissors and trim them away.

After Removal

Once all of the Steri-Strips are removed, gently wash the area with soap and water and pat (don't rub) it dry. If you have patches of dried blood or dead skin, do not remove them; let them fall off themselves.

Generally speaking, you will want to leave the skin open to the air once the strip is removed. If there is visible oozing, you may need to apply a dressing. Call your healthcare provider if there is any oozing or discharge.

Make sure to protect the area until it has fully healed, avoiding contact with lotions or clothing which could be irritating. Continue to watch for any signs of infection.

When Not to Remove

Rather than removing the strips, it is always an option to simply wait until the strips fall off on their own. In fact, many surgeons will recommend this. Showering and the natural oils of your skin will allow the strips to peel off on their own, usually in about 2 weeks.  

If your surgeon recommends removing the Steri-Strips, it will usually be on or around the seventh day following the surgery. Even then, it is not necessary to remove the strips, especially if the scabbing around the Steri-Strips looks dense. Waiting will not cause any harm or change the outcome of the wound's appearance.

If the ends of the Steri-Strips begin to curl, simply trim the edges to keep them neat.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

If your Steri-Strips come off and the incision opens, see your healthcare provider right away. Reclosing an opened incision can be challenging and, if not done correctly, may result in "second intention," a condition in which the open gap will fill in unevenly while healing and cause an unsightly scar. Worse yet, it can lead to an infection.

If you experience any signs of infection, such as pain, swelling, redness, drainage, or a fever, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you clean a wound with Steri-Strips?

Your healthcare provider will likely suggest waiting 24 to 48 hours before getting the area wet. Afterwards, use mild soap to gently cleanse the area. Avoid rubbing the Steri-Strips. Carefully pat the area dry with a clean towel.

How are Steri-Strips applied?

Half of the Steri-Strip will go on one side of the wound. The other half will go on the other side, pulling the skin together to close the cut.

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov.

The Honorable Bob Graham
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-0903

Dear Senator Graham:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the concerns of your constituent, John H. Michels regarding OSHA’s regulations pertaining to the application of butterfly bandages. Let me assure you OSHA does not regulate, in any manner, who may apply butterfly bandages, nor under what circumstances or how they should be applied.

The quote referenced by Mr. Michels from the March 1996 issue of “Reason” appears to be a misrepresentation of OSHA’s occupational injury and illness recordkeeping requirements. Each year, certain employers are required to maintain records of occupational injuries and illnesses which occur to their employees. As stated in Section 8(c)(2) of the OSH Act, “the Secretary, shall issue regulations requiring employers to maintain accurate records of, and to make periodic reports on, work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses other than minor injuries requiring only first aid treatment and which do not involve medical treatment, loss of consciousness, restriction of work or motion, or transfer to another job.” In 1971, OSHA issued regulation 29 CFR Part 1904, Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses which states that occupational injuries involving medical treatment must be recorded on the OSHA Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

In 1986, OSHA published the Recordkeeping Guidelines for Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (enclosed) to provide employers with supplemental instructions to the recordkeeping forms. On page 43 of the Recordkeeping Guidelines, OSHA provides guidance for recording lacerations which entail the use of wound closures such as adhesive dressings, sutures, butterfly, and Steri-Strips(TM). Wound closures are considered medical treatment for OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping purposes and thus constitute a recording criteria. On the other hand, wound coverings, such as Band-Aid bandages(TM), are always considered first aid treatment for recordkeeping purposes. On page 42 of the Recordkeeping Guidelines, OSHA states “medical treatment can be provided to employees by lay persons; i.e., someone other than a physician or registered medical personnel.” Furthermore, Q&A F-3 on page 44 of the Recordkeeping Guidelines states “The regulations have been interpreted to mean that medical treatment may be administered by medical or nonmedical personnel. The treatment is the main factor to consider in distinguishing medical treatment from first aid, not the person who is administering it. In distinguishing between medical treatment and first aid, Congress intended to focus on the seriousness of the injury. Doctors or medical personnel often provide first aid treatment for minor injuries; nonmedical personnel often provide medical treatment for certain injuries that are relatively serious in nature.” Clearly, OSHA does not limit the use of these wound closures in any way.

I hope this information will help you answer your constituent’s concerns. If Mr. Michels would like to further discuss these issues, or needs any further assistance, please have him contact the OSHA Division of Recordkeeping Requirements by phone at (202) 219-6463 or by writing:

Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.

Michael Menna, DO, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He is an attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York and also works at an urgent care center and a telemedicine company that provides care to patients across the country.

A laceration is an irregular cut in the skin caused by a sharp object. Treatment for a laceration typically depends on just how deep the cut is.

Lacerations remain the most common cause of emergency room visits in the United States, with between 7 million and 9 million cases reported annually.   Treating lacerations appropriately not only reduces the risk of infection, scarring, and hospitalization but can also sometimes save a life.

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Steps to Treating a Laceration

Some lacerations can be easily treated with a home first aid kit. Others require emergency medical care, particularly if the wound is deep and the bleeding cannot be stopped.

Whatever the circumstances, there are several general guidelines you should follow if someone experiences a laceration:

  1. Stay safe. If you are not the injured party, practice universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if available. Lacerations often involve a lot of blood, and you should avoid getting anyone’s blood on you if at all possible.
  2. Control the bleeding. Preventing blood loss is the central task when faced with a laceration injury. Apply pressure directly to the wound while elevating the wound to the level of the heart for around 15 minutes. This should be enough to stop bleeding. If not, try applying pressure to key pressure points (such as the groin or crook of the elbow). Tourniquets should be avoided unless medical care will be delayed for several hours. Tourniquets are typically viewed as a last resort.
  3. Know when to call 911. If you have tried all of these options but the bleeding still will not stop, call 911. Excess blood loss is a serious concern with lacerations. With severe lacerations of a major artery, people have been known to bleed out in as quickly as five minutes.
  4. Clean the wound. Once the bleeding has stopped, wash the laceration and surrounding skin with warm water and mild soap. If there is a deep laceration, bleeding may start again if you are not gentle. If this occurs, re-apply pressure and call for help if bleeding continues.
  5. Get stitches if needed. When you are certain that the bleeding has completely stopped, check whether the laceration needs stitches. A wound deeper or longer than a half-inch or deep enough to expose bone, muscle, or fatty tissue generally requires stitches. While a larger laceration will still eventually heal on its own without stitches, stitching promotes faster healing, keepss bacteria out of the wound (reducing the risk of infection), and help prevent scarring.
  6. Apply an antiseptic. For smaller lacerations that do not require stitches, use an antiseptic ointment and an adhesive bandage (such as a butterfly closure bandage). This will help to keep the wound clean and help prevent infection and scarring.
  7. Dress the wound. Once the antiseptic ointment and bandage have been applied, cover the wound with sterile gauze, either taping it into place or wrapping it with elastic bandage.
  8. Check for infection. Watch for infection, checking the dressing daily for signs of oozing or excessive bleeding. Clean the laceration each time you change the dressing. If the laceration begins to swell or drain pus, call a doctor.
  9. Control the pain. Lacerations can be extremely painful. If occasional ice application doesn’t help, try using Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) for temporary pain relief. Elevating the wound also helps.

When to Call a Doctor

Seek immediate medical attention, day or night, if you have any signs of an infection, including:

  • Swelling, pain, or redness around the wound
  • Red streaks visible near the injury, pointing toward the heart
  • Pus discharging from the wound or visible in it
  • Numbness in the area around the injury
  • A temperature over 100.4 F  

A Word From Verywell

If the laceration is contaminated, the injured party should get a tetanus vaccination or booster shot as soon as possible. Wounds of the feet, those that cannot be cleaned right away, and wounds made by animals have a high risk of contamination.  

Similarly, lacerations caused by animal bites may also cause rabies. Always consult a doctor for wounds caused by animal bites.