Does it need stitches?

December 17, 2018 | by Kimberly McKinnon, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

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 Department for 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.

Our Immediate Care Centers are a convenient option for non-life threatening illnesses and injuries such cuts or minor wounds needing stitches.

Kimberly McKinnon is a family medicine physician with Elmhurst Memorial Medical Group. Dr. McKinnon is currently accepting new patients! View her profile and schedule an appointment online.

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