Everybody gets cuts, and some cuts are bigger than others. For little cuts or scrapes it is recommended that the little cuts be cleaned with ordinary soap (not an antibacterial kind) and water. Then cover the cut with a nonstick adhesive bandage. It is no longer recommended that you use antibacterial ointment or hydrogen peroxide. Simply change the bandage every day or when it is wet. If the cut hasn’t healed in a week or shows signs of infection such as redness, pain or pus, call your doctor.

Stitches aren’t for scratches. They’re for bigger cuts that probably wouldn’t heal well on their own. That’s where stitches come in. They join the sides of the cut together so that it can heal.

Stitches are loops of special thread that doctors use to join the edges of a cut on your skin. After a few days or a week, the skin heals and the stitches come out.

Another way of closing a cut is to use glue. Sometimes, if a cut isn’t too deep or wide, and is on a flat area like the forehead, the doctor will use special skin glue to keep the cut’s edges together until it heals. It usually dissolves by itself in seven to 10 days.

Another option for tiny cuts is a small sticky strip called a butterfly bandage. It keeps the edges of a shallow cut together for a few days, and then it usually comes off in the bath.

If you need stitches, the nurse or assistant will usually start by putting a numbing gel on top of the cut. When the skin is numb, he or she will begin cleaning your cut with sterile water, which is squirted into the cut to remove harmful germs and dirt. Sometimes a liquid numbing medicine will be put into the skin with a small needle. The doctor also will make sure that whatever cut you (such as a piece of glass) isn’t still in the cut.

If you have stitches, glue or a butterfly your doctor will tell you how to care for your cut after it has been closed. It’s important to follow the directions carefully. For more detailed information use the website
Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.