Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Taking Care of Healing Cuts


Am Fam Physician. 2008 Oct 15;78(8):952.

  See related article on skin laceration repair.

Your doctor may close large cuts, called lacerations, with stitches or staples. Stitches are also called sutures. For smaller cuts, your doctor may use skin glue called tissue adhesive or tape to close the wound.

It is important to watch and care for your cut after the doctor closes it. The following should help your wound heal:

  • When your doctor tells you it's okay to get the wound wet, get it damp in the shower, but don't soak it.

  • Keep a bandage on the wound for a few days to protect it.

  • If your doctor says it is okay, put a small amount of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment or white petroleum jelly (one brand: Vaseline) on the wound daily. Do not use the petroleum jelly if the doctor used skin glue to seal the cut.

  • Tell your doctor if your wound gets red, swells up, starts to hurt, or has liquid coming out of it. Any of these could mean that the wound is infected.

Skin glue, tape, and some stitches and staples dissolve or come off on their own. But, some stitches and staples need to be taken out by your doctor. Ask your doctor if and when you should go back for a follow-up visit.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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