Whether your knife slipped while you were chopping an onion, or you slipped while walking to the mailbox, any type of traumatic blow, especially if a sharp object is involved, can cause a skin laceration — the medical term for a cut.
In many cases, you can clean the wound and protect it with a bandage, and you’re good to go. In other cases, however, your wound needs stitches.
Here to help you tell the difference, Dr. Joseph Goin and our team at Calvary Urgent Care in Humble, Texas, offer tips to determine when your cut may need stitches or another form of wound care. Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating your cut.
Is it very long, wide, or deep?
Small cuts are easy to treat at home, but if your cut is longer than half an inch, it’s best to have a medical professional look at it.
Length isn’t the only concerning factor — depth is just as important. Puncture wounds caused by an animal bite or nail for instance, typically aren’t very long, but they may have penetrated several layers of skin.
Also, if your wound is wide open and you can’t make the two edges meet, it likely needs stitches.
Is there dirt in it?
If you have a laceration or abrasion that’s filled with dirt or debris, including gravel or broken glass, it’s important to clean it thoroughly to prevent infection. If you can’t clean it properly at home, we can sterilize it here.
Are the edges ragged?
A straight cut heals more easily on its own than one with uneven edges. If you notice jagged edges at the opening of your cut, it stands a better chance of healing properly if you come in so we can join the skin together with stitches, which also minimizes the resulting scar.
Is it bleeding profusely?
The standard treatment protocol for a bleeding wound is to apply direct pressure for 5-10 minutes. If the bleeding continues despite this measure, you may need stitches.
If you bandage your cut and it keeps bleeding through the padding of the bandage, you may need stitches.
If blood is spurting out of your wound, you’ve likely cut an artery, and you need emergency care.
Where is the cut located?
Some areas of your body are more sensitive than others, and the tissue is more delicate. Regardless of whether a cut looks like it needs stitches, you should come see Dr. Goin if you have a cut on your genitals, mouth, face, or eyes.
What caused the cut?
One of the dangers of lacerations is the risk of tetanus, a bacterial infection caused by spores in dirt. If the bacteria enter your body to a depth where oxygen can’t reach them, they become toxic, enter your bloodstream, and damage your nerves.
For this reason, you may need a tetanus shot after you sustain a laceration from an animal or human bite, a rusty or dirty object, or a long, pointed object. Most children receive a tetanus vaccination, but you need a booster every 10 years. If it’s been longer than that for you, we can administer one.
If you have a cut that needs stitches, we provide immediate care. We clean the wound thoroughly and apply a local anesthetic to ease your pain and prevent discomfort during the procedure. Then Dr. Goin binds the two edges of your laceration together using medical-grade silk or nylon stitches.
Once your wound is closed, he applies a sterile dressing, and we provide you detailed care instructions.
It’s important to monitor your wound as it heals and watch for signs of infection, including redness, swelling, oozing, nausea, and fever.
If you’re not sure whether your cut needs stitches, err on the side of safety and come to Calvary Urgent Care for an expert evaluation and treatment. Contact us today by calling our office at 832-680-2273.