How Do I Tell If I Need Stitches?

Cuts and scrapes are a part of life, and in most situations, an at-home first aid kit will do the trick. But there are times when injuries require a consultation with an experienced medical team. How do you know when it is time to visit the nearest emergency center or urgent care?


Some people hesitate to seek medical help because they feel stressed or anxious about doctor visits. Others are worried about paying for expensive emergency room care. But if an injury is severe, you should see a medical professional right away. At iCare ER and Urgent Care, we offer multiple care options when you visit one of our clinics. If the injury can be treated in the urgent care center, you can rest easy, knowing that you will receive quality emergency care without paying ER prices.


Immediate Care for Cuts and Scrapes


When an injury is shallow or minor, like a small scrape on the knee, a few supplies in the medicine cabinet will likely be sufficient. At-home care should include thorough cleaning to disinfect the wound and remove dirt or debris. Then, a bandage can be applied if necessary. Some people like to use a topical antibiotic cream, such as Neosporin.


If the cut is severe, then the initial care is a little different. Follow these essential steps:

  • Step #1: Use warm water to wash the cut, then pat it dry using a clean towel. Avoid using anything that might stick to the wound, such as cotton balls. Don’t use iodine or hydrogen peroxide; these products only irritate the wound.
  • Step #2: When the cut is clean, apply gentle pressure to stop the bleeding. For example, gauze or a small washcloth can be placed on the wound with firm, steady pressure applied until the bleeding stops. Try to raise the wound above the heart, which will help to slow or stop the bleeding.
  • Step #3: Once the bleeding has stopped, examine the wound to check the shape of the edges. If the wound has smooth edges and stays together during normal movement, the wound will likely be able to heal without professional medical treatment.


When a wound is severe, there are a few additional steps that should be followed as you are preparing to meet with a doctor. If an object, such as a nail, is stuck in the skin, then the object should not be removed before talking to a doctor.


Keep in mind that if medical attention is required, it is best to visit an emergency room or urgent care center within 6 to 8 hours of injury. Early treatment is essential to avoid common complications, such as infection.


Signs Your Cut Needs Stitches


As you are inspecting the wound (in step #3 above), look for these signs that might indicate a need for stitches. Here are a few indications that you may need stitches:

  • Depth: The wound goes deeper than 1/4 inch.
  • Length: The wound is more than 1/2 inch long.
  • Visible Layers: If the wound is deep enough to show bone, muscle, or fat, then stitches might be required to heal the skin over the underlying layers.
  • Cause of Injury: How did the wound occur? If the object was dirty or rusty, then the risk of infection goes up. It is also smart to consider other treatment options for tetanus or rabies if the wound is a puncture or animal bite.
  • Age: Young children, under the age of 1, should always visit a doctor to determine if stitches are needed for an injury.
  • Impact: It is always smart to visit an emergency room or urgent care if the wound was caused by a high-pressure impact, such as a bullet.
  • Bleeding: Applying pressure on the wound should stop the bleeding. If the cut is still bleeding after 10 minutes of pressure, then it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible. Also, you likely need stitches if the blood spurts out of the wound or soaks through the bandage.
  • Debris: Medical attention is needed if debris is left in the wound, such as gravel, glass, or dirt.
  • Location: Where is the injury on the body? Certain injuries require medical attention because they are difficult to heal without stitches. Visit an urgent care or emergency room right away if the cut is over a joint, or on the hand, finger, genitals, or face.
  • Movement: What does the wound do when you move? Talk to a doctor about stitches if the edges separate and open with movement.
  • Cosmetic: Not only should you think about the function and healing of the affected area, but also consider how scar tissue could impact your appearance. For example, medical services can help to minimize the appearance of a scar located on the face or other areas where scarring could blemish appearance.


Not sure about the severity of your cut or injury? Give yourself peace of mind by visiting with our medical team about your treatment options. We will assess your injury and provide recommendations about potential treatments, such as stitches or an adhesive closure. Professional medical care is an effective and important step in reducing the risk of infection and other complications.


How Stitches Help with Healing


Like the threads used in your clothing, stitches in the skin can be used to hold things together. When a cut or injury is deep, it can be helpful to hold the skin together for optimal healing. Stitches are used as wound treatment for several reasons:

  • Keeps the wound closed, promoting faster healing
  • Stitches provide support and strength during recovery
  • Stops the bleeding
  • Lowers the risk of infection
  • Minimizes the long-term appearance of scars


Urgent Care and 24 Hour ER


Whether you sliced your finger while chopping vegetables or your child fell off their bicycle and cut their leg, it is wise to care for the wound as soon as possible. If the injury is beyond a basic scrape or bruise, we invite you to contact our experienced team.


At iCare ER and Urgent Care, our experienced team is always available to assist with your emergency medical situation. Our board-certified physicians and nurses provide caring support and high-quality medical treatment for a range of health concerns. If you have been cut or wounded and are unsure if stitches are needed, call us for care: (214) 407-8668.