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When Should This Wound or Injury Get Medical Stitches?

Updated on May 2, 2017
Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah has been trained in First Aid as a consequence of working with teens as an educator, Girl Scout leader, and school volunteer.

Wound sutures can prevent scarring and infection.


Minor Injuries Can Occur at Any Time

If you suddenly cut yourself in the kitchen, or your bleeding child comes running into the house while playing, how do you decide if this minor injury will require wound sutures, or whether a band-aid will suffice? If your grandchild steps on a rusty nail, should you remove it yourself? What if your child is bit by the neighbor’s dog, or even by a playmate? Are you certain you know what to do when these childhood injuries occur? Emergency room doctors can often quickly reduce the damage by correctly cleaning out the wound and closing it with some simple surgery stitches that will speed healing and prevent infection.

When I was a Scout leader, part of the leadership training involved helping us assess when an injury could be cleaned up with the ingredients from our First Aid Kit and when we needed to take the child to the closest emergency room. This training was invaluable and has helped me innumerable times with my own children.

According to the Scout training I received and the American Red Cross First Aid literature, below you will find guidelines which will help you make that decision. Remember, however: If you have any doubt about whether you are able to properly care for an injury, it is better to err on the side of safety and take the person to the emergency room. When it comes to health, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Rules for Medical Stitches

Although you may be tempted to skip getting stitches when you have been cut or injured, it may reassure you to know that medical stitches often help the wound heal more quickly, with less scarring and less chance of an infection. As a result, if you or someone you love sustains a serious cut, in particular if the injury is bleeding profusely, you may want to see a doctor about stitches.

You should get medical stitches if:

The edges of a cut will not fall back together;

The cut is over an inch long;

There is heavy bleeding, especially if you are having trouble getting it to stop;

If you believe that an artery may have been nicked;

If you can see the muscle, a bone or a joint inside the cut;

If the cut gapes widely;

If it is a head wound; they often need stitches because the scalp bleeds easily.

Below, you will see more information about when you should see a doctor after an injury ... just to make sure it doesn't develop into a more serious condition.

You May Want to Own This First Aid Guide to Help You Remember these Rules and With All Kinds of Emergencies!

The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook
The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook

This is the First Aid book that I keep handy. It has helped me out innumerable times! I have also taken Red Cross First Aid and CRP classes, something I highly recommend that everyone does at least once in their lives.


More Reasons a Doctor Should See Your Wound

In addition, there are other reasons why you should not try to deal with a serious injury yourself, but immediately see a doctor, instead.

Here are Examples of When a Doctor Should Check Your Wound

If there is a deep puncture wound;

If an object is embedded in the wound; Do Not try to pull the object out because it may increase the bleeding;

If there is other debris in the wound which cannot easily be rinsed out - a doctor may need to remove it;

If the injury involves the hands, feet or face;

If you want to minimize scarring, especially on the face;

If you have been bitten by either an animal or a human, since these types of bites can become infected easily. This is particularly important if the animal was wild. It is possible the animal is infected with the rabies virus. Prompt attention is the only way to save your life.

In addition, if the injury was sustained from “tornado shrapnel,” you should see a doctor. There have been recent reports that many people have developed infections when small fragments of wood, metal, plastic, gravel and other items have gotten embedded in their skin after they were exposed to severe wind damage. These items are often filthy, and these seemingly minor cuts and splinters can create serious health problems days or even weeks after the shrapnel was embedded in the victim's body.

Finally, ANY serious injury should be examined by a physician as soon as possible, in order to prevent permanent damage, scarring or infection. In many cases, proper cleaning and wound sutures can prevent future problems.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2011 Deborah-Diane


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    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you for your comments, Sharkye11. You have had some interesting life experiences. Thanks for sharing them!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Useful hub! I come from a very tough family, and lived way out in the woods, so we learned from an early age how to handle just about any type of wound. I have had stitches, but I didn't notice the scars being any less noticeable than un-stitched wounds, which is probably something determined more by genetics.

      When I worked in the medical field, it was amazing how few people cleaned their wounds before wrapping them. That is very important for ANY wound. That is what prevents infection. Your info about the debris wounds is very useful, too many people get little cuts and splinters and don't bother cleaning them.

      Voting up!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Excellent hub with great advice. Many people end up with more serious complaints because a wound has not been stitched and they have ended up with nasty wound infections because of this. So this article will be very helpful.

    • truthfornow profile image

      Marie Hurt 

      7 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I have a scar from a cut as a child that I probably should have gotten stitches for. I can still faintly see it 25 years later. It is sometimes hard to know when to get stitches, so your hub is very useful. Great job.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 

      7 years ago from Winnipeg

      Really great points on when to go to the doc. We have definitely run into situations where you wonder what's best. Good to have this list for review. Thanks for sharing this useful info...

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Good information to share with others. Often it is a fine line determining whether a doctor's services are necessary, but better to be safe rather than sorry if given an option.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      I cannot tell you how many times I have had the dilemma of whether to get stitches for my child or not. Once we did for her forehead. Like you said, the head bleeds a lot and the skin is tight so it needs to be stitched together. Just last week she cut her finger badly, but a band-aid and a splint to keep her finger from bending and re-opening the cut seemed to do the job. Thanks for the good info.

    • DeborahFantasia profile image


      7 years ago from Italy

      Very good advice ! I think people tend to dismiss cuts as "no big deal," when a lot of times they should get stitches !

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Now that my kids are grown we've not had too many of these types of injuries, but it's always nice to know. Thank God! Nice hub, Deborah.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What a great Hub. Voted up.

      These are some very useful tips. When I was younger, I cut my arm along the wrist line, very close to the vain. I was playing outside with my friends when it happened. The cut wasn't very deep but it was long and heavily bleeding. Long story short, I never went to the doctor. My grandmother cleaned the wound, wrapped it up and to this day, I still have a wonderful 1 inch scar following me around wherever I go. I always wondered if I got stitches, would the scar have been less apparent?

      Anyway, thanks for sharing. Great work.


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