Health Question

How do I apply butterfly stitches?

Butterfly stitches are narrow adhesive strips that help to close the edges of a small wound and encourage the skin to heal. They are sold in pharmacies as skin-closure strips or "Steri-Strips".

They should not be used on areas where the skin moves a lot, such as joints, or on oily, moist or hairy areas.

You can use the strips if the wound is shallow, clean and uninfected, and you're sure nothing is embedded in it.

Do not use them if the wound is on the face, or was the result of an animal or human bite. These types of wound should be checked by your Doctor or the staff at your local emergency services. 

Make sure the skin around the wound is also clean and dry. It's not always necessary to use the full length of the strips – you can cut them to a more appropriate length. Leave about 3mm between each strip.

How to apply them

To apply skin-closure strips:

  • carefully line up the edges of the wound
  • push them together and, starting at the middle of the wound, apply the strips to hold the edges together
  • place half of the strip on one side of the wound, gently bring the other side of the wound towards it, and then pass the strip over
  • place strips alternately above and below the first strip – this helps to match up the edges and keeps the skin tension equal
  • to anchor the rows of strips in place, put two strips vertically across the rows – one on each side of the wound

A protective dressing is not usually necessary. The strips are waterproof, so you should be able to take a shower 24 hours after applying them, but try to keep the wound and strips as dry as possible.

If the wound does not stop bleeding once the strips have been applied, this is a sign that butterfly stitches are not suitable. You should go to your Doctor because another method of treating the wound may be required. 

Instructions to remove the strips vary by type and location of the wound. Check the patient information leaflet that comes in the packet.

If the wound becomes swollen, red or more painful then it may have become infected. Seek advice from your Doctor, or from the staff at your local emergency services.