Everyone gets scrapes and/or cuts at some point in their life. Most of the time, these wounds are minor and heal without any treatment at all. However, some cuts and injuries require professional help to heal properly.
Whether a cut needs professional treatment depends on factors such as where the cut is and how deep it is. Some minor wounds bleed more than others, which can make it difficult to know when to get stitches or just treat the cut at home.
First of all, if it’s an emergency, call 911.
Some signs are when the injury:
- Bleeds excessively
- Spurts blood
- Does not stop bleeding after 10 minutes of firm pressure
- Is to the chest, abdomen, or neck
- Happens along with any emergency symptoms: severe pain, fast breathing or trouble breathing, vomiting, dizziness, unconsciousness
- Is to the eye or throat
How Do I Know If I Need Stitches?
From the size of the wound to its location, there are a lot of signs that you need stitches or at least to have a doctor check things out.
How big is it? You’ll want to see a doctor if the wound:
- Looks very deep, even if it’s not especially long or wide
- Is more than a half-inch long
- Opens so wide that you can’t get the edges together with just a little pressure
- Has ragged edges
- Has debris in it such as dirt, glass, or gravel
How badly is it bleeding? You’ll likely need stitches if the wound:
- Bleeds enough to soak through a bandage
- Keeps bleeding even after you apply direct pressure for 5 to 10 minutes
- Spurts blood
What caused it?
For some wounds, you may need a tetanus shot as well as stitches. Tetanus is one of the standard shots for children. Adults need a booster every 10 years.
Get care right away if the wound is from an:
- Animal or human bite
- Dirty or rusty object
- Pointed object that might have driven deep into the skin, especially if the wound happened through the bottom of a shoe — stepping on a nail, for example
If you have any doubts, it’s best to see a medical professional
If you do need stitches, here are a few tips before you head to the doctor.
Apply pressure. Use a clean towel or bandage to apply direct pressure to the wound. Try to keep the injured area raised above the heart to help stop or slow bleeding. If blood soaks through, don’t remove the old bandage. Just put another one right on top of it.
Stitches, also called sutures, are special types of thread that hold wound edges together while they heal. Stitches help speed healing, stop bleeding, reduce scarring, and decrease the chance of infection in the wound.
Sterile adhesive strips can sometimes be used on small, shallow wounds instead of stitches. They work the same as stitches.
Skin glue is a special medical glue used to close wounds. It can be used on its own or with stitches or adhesive tape. It forms a protective waterproof covering over your wound.
Staples are used for lacerations on the scalp. They are quick to put in and will stop bleeding.
Remember many wounds are minor and can be properly treated at home but if yours is bleeding excessively, deep, or you may need a tetanus shot update do not hesitate to seek medical care.