Discharge Instructions: Caring for Your Child’s Cranial Incision

Your child has undergone a surgical procedure that left an incision on his or her scalp. The incision was closed using sutures (stitches), surgical staples, or small white adhesive strips. These items must be cared for so that your child’s incision heals properly. Follow the tips on this sheet when caring for your child’s incision at home.

Incision care

  • Position your child so that he or she can sleep without putting pressure on the incision for 2 weeks after surgery.

  • Keep your child from picking, scratching, or pulling at the incision area. Put mittens or socks on his or her hands if necessary.

  • Keep the incision clean and dry. Wash the incision gently with mild soap and warm water. Then gently pat the incision dry with a towel.

  • Do not use oils, lotions, or creams on the incision unless you’ve been told to do so by your child’s doctor.

  • Do not allow your child to take baths, swim in pools, or sit in hot tubs. This helps prevent infection of the incision site.

  • Protect the incision from the sun for at least 6 months after the stitches are removed. Have your child wear a hat, scarf, or sunblock with a recommended SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or greater.

Other home care

  • Limit your child’s activities to calm, quiet play. Don’t allow your child to engage in rough play or sports until your child’s healthcare provider says it’s OK.

  • Help your child with exercises for bending his or her neck. Have your child practice turning the head from side to side 4 times a day.

  • Feed your child his or her regular diet as directed by the healthcare provider.

  • Make sure your child avoids exertion, heat, stress, and tiredness.


Make a follow-up appointment.

When to call your child’s healthcare provider

Call the healthcare provider right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Separation of the skin at the incision site

  • Drainage, redness, warmth, or swelling at the incision site

  • Unusual drowsiness or other changes in behavior

  • Weakness of arms or legs

  • Headache or visual disturbance

  • Seizures

  • Vomiting

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or shaking chills

  • Symptoms that might suggest meningitis, such as severe neck pain or sensitivity to light


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