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On Call: Fading Scars

Q. My toddler fell and hit his head on our coffee table. His stitches are now out, and there's a scar on his forehead. Is there anything I can do to make it less noticeable?

A. Bumps and falls are an unavoidable part of childhood, so lots of kids end up with stitches at some point (my four older children have each had them at least once). There are treatments on the market, such as ones made from vitamin E or onion extract, that are purported to diminish scars; there is no good medical evidence that they work. (If vitamin E is used too early, it may make the scar worse.) Sunburn can make scars appear larger, so using sunscreen's a good idea.

The next time your child gets stitches, make sure to keep the area clean and get them out on time. Apply a petroleum jelly-based ointment like Aquaphor during the first few weeks after the stitches are taken out.

As your child grows older, there are other safe treatments (such as laser surgery) available if the scar's noticeable enough to bother him. Chances are, though, this won't be necessary—most scars fade by themselves over time.