Does it need stitches?

Kimberly McKinnon, D.O.Specialty: Family medicine, shared in the Edwards Elmhurst Healthy Driven Blog that cuts and scrapes are part of life. If you have kids, they’re part of everyday life.

Most of the time we don’t hurt ourselves that badly. A scrape or a minor cut usually requires a little home treatment and heals on its own.

Sometimes, however, we end up with a doozy. Not all injuries need stitches to heal, but some do. And it’s not always easy to decide whether you need a doctor.

First, when you get a cut or puncture wound:

  • Gently wash it with soap and water
  • Put pressure on the injury and elevate it if possible to stop the bleeding
  • Once the bleeding stops, examine the wound. If the edges stay together during your normal body movement, and it’s not very deep, you probably don’t need further medical treatment
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment (e.g., Neosporin®) and cover the cut with gauze or a bandage

Watch for these wound characteristics, as they require a trip to the doctor:

  • A cut that’s more than a quarter-inch deep, or the sides are gaping open and don’t stay closed when you move
  • If you can see fat, muscle or underlying tissue through the cut
  • If the wound was caused by a rusty object (e.g., a nail)
  • If the wound was caused by an animal or human bite
  • If the wound is located across a joint
  • If the wound is bleeding a lot and doesn’t stop with pressure
  • If the wound was caused by an object that impales your body part or a high-impact object like a bullet

If you need to get to an Immediate Care Center or Emergency Departmentfor treatment, follow these tips before you go:

  • If your wound was caused by an object that’s now lodged in the wound, don’t pull it out
  • Try to rinse the wound with tap water. Don’t bother with hydrogen peroxide or iodine, as these antiseptics could irritate the wound
  • Apply pressure on the wound with a bandage or a clean towel. Elevate it if possible. If the blood soaks through your bandage or towel, just wrap a new one on top.
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