Accidents happen, and cuts are part of life. However, determining whether a cut requires stitches or if it can heal on its own can be a common dilemma. Read on as Dr. Rogers Walker highlights six factors to consider when assessing a cut and how the team here at Walker Family Care in Little River, South Carolina, can help repair your laceration.
How to know if your cut needs stitches
In some cases, it’s obvious that you need emergent medical care. For example, if your wound is bleeding excessively or is accompanied by other injuries, such as a fracture, call 911 or visit the emergency room.
In other cases, though, it isn’t always so easy to tell if you need stitches. Use these six questions to help you determine if your cut needs stitches or if your cut will heal on its own:
How deep is your cut?
Superficial cuts that only affect the top layer of skin often heal well on their own with proper care. Deeper cuts, however, may benefit from stitches. Sutures can also help minimize scarring.
Where is your cut, and how big is it?
Longer cuts, particularly those over joints, may benefit from stitches to ensure the wound edges remain lined up straight as they heal. Cuts over joints, especially your knee or fingers, may open (and keep re-opening) if they aren’t stitched.
Your face is another area to take seriously. Cuts on your face may require special attention to minimize scarring in a more delicate area.
Is your wound dirty?
All wounds should be cleaned with warm water and soap, but you may need professional help removing debris if:
- You see visible dirt or foreign objects in your wound
- You were cut on a piece of metal or glass
- You already tried to clean your wound but still see debris
Depending on your circumstances, you might also need a tetanus shot. Only once the wound is clean can you receive stitches. After your injury, clean the wound, and seek medical attention if there's any doubt about debris being present.
Is your wound still bleeding?
Excessive bleeding that doesn't stop with direct pressure after a few minutes is a sign that you might need stitches. Stitches can help bring the wound edges together, control bleeding, and promote faster healing.
Severe bleeding warrants a trip to the emergency room.
Is there a gap between the edges of your cut?
If the wound edges are separated and don’t come together naturally, stitches may be required to bring them into proper alignment. Gaps in the skin can hinder the healing process and increase the risk of infection. Stitching up a jagged cut can also help leave less of a scar.
How many hours have elapsed since your injury?
Putting off treatment can lead to complications such as infection, delayed healing, and increased scarring. Not to mention, if you wait too long, you might not be eligible for stitches any longer. That’s because you can only have stitches within a specific timeframe 一 known as the golden period of stitches 一 because getting stitches too long after your injury increases your risk of infection.
If in doubt, it's better to err on the side of caution and talk to Dr. Walker.
First aid steps to take immediately after an injury
Caring for minor cuts at home requires proper at-home first aid.. Be sure to:
- Wash your hands
- Wash your cut gently with mild soap and warm water
- Apply an antibiotic ointment
- Cover it with a sterile bandage
Monitor for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, fever, or increasing pain.
Getting ready for stitches
Determining whether a cut needs stitches or can heal on its own isn’t always easy. When in doubt, it's advisable to seek professional medical advice here at Walker Urgent & Family Care. As part of our walk-in services, Dr. Walker offers wound care, including sutures (stitches), sterile bandaging, and if needed, topical and oral antibiotics. If you do have a shallow wound, Dr. Walker may use special medical-safe glue (instead of stitches) to close your wound.
If you have questions about laceration repair, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 843-280-8333 or simply walk right into our Little River, South Carolina, urgent care. For less urgent matters, schedule your appointment online.