Cutting to the Chase: How to Know if You Need Stitches

Mar 23, 2021 | Minor Injuries

You make a slight miscalculation with that boxcutter. Or you take a nasty spill on those new roller skates. Or you’re on the losing end of a slip n slide experiment. (We won’t judge.) Now you’re bleeding, and just one question remains: How do you know if you need stitches?

The act of using thread to bind a wound together has been used medically for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt. Their purpose is threefold. Stitches can help to:

  • Support the wounded appendage while the skin closes and heals.
  • Reduce the risk of bleeding and infection.
  • Minimize the chance of scarring.

Determining if that cut can be simply bandaged at home or if it requires a trip to the urgent care largely depends on three different criteria:

  • Size: If your wound is more than half an inch in length, you’ll want to seek professional help. Medical care should also be sought if the laceration, gash, slash, or cut:
    • Is particularly deep.
    • Is ragged.
    • Is contaminated with glass, gravel, or dirt.
    • Cannot be closed so that edges meet with slight pressure.
  • Bleeding: If after applying steady pressure for 5-10 minutes, the wound continues to bleed, you’re going to want to grab the car keys and head for the nearest urgent care (better yet – have someone drive you).

Also, seek care if:

  • The wound bleeds through a bandage.
  • Is spraying or spurting blood.
  • Location: It’s always a good idea to check with a physician if and when you sustain a wound in one of the following bodily areas:
    • Face
    • Mouth
    • Groin
    • Near the eyes
    • An elbow, knee, or other joint

Some other things to keep in mind include how you were injured and whether the potential for infection exists. Seek care immediately if the wound resulted from:

  • A bite (animal or human).
  • A sharp object that remains embedded in your skin.
  • A rusty object.

With any cut or gash, you will also want to keep an eye out for possible signs of infection. These include:

  • Red marks around or near the wound
  • Increasing redness and/or pain
  • Oozing pus
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • A temperature of 100 degrees or above

Be sure to ask your doctor if a tetanus shot is required. Boosters are required for adults every 10 years.

Accidents happen. As warmer weather arrives and we take to the outdoors for some much-needed R&R, falls, scratches, scrapes, and other minor injuries tend to increase – some of which could require medical attention.

No worries. Quality First Urgent care is here to help. Our emergency medicine professionals regularly clean and bandage minor abrasions and provide immediate care – including tetanus shots – in case you have a more serious laceration. We’re here when you need us. Schedule an appointment today.