How to tell if you need stitches

By January 11, 2017how to
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So you’ve fallen on sharp rocks, or the neighbor’s rottweiler took a chunk out of your foot. You’re in a lot of pain and you see a lot of blood. We all know that some lacerations will heal on their own and others require a doctor’s help.

How do you know if you should head to the emergency room for stitches?

Doctors say it can be hard to tell sometimes, but here are some guidelines on when you should seek medical attention:

  • The cut is deep enough to expose the dermis – the yellow, fatty tissue under the cut.
  • The gash is so wide that you can’t push the edges together when you push them gently.
  • The cut is on or crosses a joint.
  • The cut or gash happened because an animal or a human bit you. If that’s the case, you might also need a tetanus shot.  
  • The cut or gash happened because a foreign object cut through your skin.
  • If the open wound is from a bullet, seek medical attention immediately.
  • The foreign object that cut your skin was dirty or rusty.
  • The cut or gash is bleeding heavily and doesn’t appear to be stopping.
  • You should see a doctor if the cut or gash is on your face or near your genitalia.


What do you do if you decide to go the emergency room?

Here are some rules for what you should do if you decide to head to the ER:

  • If there is a foreign object, like a piece of wood or metal, that’s stuck in your skin, do not remove it. Ever.
  • Try to clean your injury – very gently, of course – if possible. Use a lot of water and diluted antibacterial serve. Do not try hydrogen peroxide if your wound is serious enough for the emergency room. It can damage your tissue.
  • If you think you may need stitches, do not eat or drink anything before your visit to the emergency room. Why, you ask? Because doctors might need to sedate you or your child, and if you have had anything to eat or drink, that can slow down the process.
  • If you’re on the way to the emergency room, we can assume you are not driving yourself. While you’re riding in the car, try to apply direct pressure to your open wound – and elevate the injury at the same time. This will help to stop, or at least slow, the bleeding.
  • Keep calm and drive safely – You don’t want to add more stress to an already stressful situation.


What if you don’t need stitches?

If you don’t think your cut or gash needs stitches, you should treat it at home using water and diluted antibacterial soap. You can also you a topical antibiotic ointment and a band-aid.