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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.