Accidents happen in the blink of an eye. The kitchen knife slips, and in half a second, you find yourself looking at a gaping wound. Once the shock wears off and you stop the bleeding, you assess the damage.
You have one question on your mind: do I need stitches? Then you wonder how long you should wait before heading into an emergency room or acute care center. If you have kids at home or other obligations, you evaluate how you're going to handle those obligations when a doctor stitches you up.
Furthermore, you wonder about the cost of the stitches. Emergency room visits are expensive. Do you really need to go in, or can you just bandage the wound at home and hope for the best?
Keep reading to learn how to know if you need stitches.
Do I Need Stitches?
Evaluate the cut carefully before you rush off to the emergency room. You may be able to care for it at home. You also may end up in an emergency room where a doctor essentially glues the wound together with liquid stitches. Look at these factors.
Size of the Wound
You may need stitches if the cut has one or more of the following qualities:
- The cut is more than a half-inch long.
- The cut gapes open wide enough that you cannot pinch the sides shut.
- The cut has ragged edges.
- The cut looks deep. Deep cuts need stitches, even if they're not wide or long.
- The cut has gravel, glass, dirt, or other debris in it.
A dirty, ragged cut needs medical treatment, even if just to get the dirt out and prevent infection. Deep, long, or gaping cuts need some kind of suture to hold them together.
Once you see the cut, you should apply direct pressure for five to ten minutes. If the cut continues to bleed after this or if it bleeds so much that it soaks through a bandage, you should get stitches. Additionally, if the cut spurts blood, you have more than your basic cut on the hand and thus need medical attention.
Cause of the Cut
What cuts you matter as much as the nature of the cut. If an animal or human bites you, for example, you may need treatment for infection or other diseases. If a dirty or rusty object or a pointed object such as a nail causes your injury, you may need a tetanus shot.
Location of the Cut
The location of your cut may deem stitches necessary. Any time you have a cut near an opening on your body such as near your genitals, mouth, or eye, you should go in to see if you need stitches.
If you receive a cut on a precarious joint like an elbow or knee that flexes regularly, you will most likely need stitches. Finally, if your wound is on your hand, where you're most likely to pick up an infection, you will need medical care.
Treated improperly, a small cut can become a big problem quickly. If your sound has debris in it and you feel like you cannot adequately clean it, go seek medical assistance.
Some individuals will argue that infections come from the hospital. After all, that's where the sick people are. However, even though one study even showed 5 percent of patients who visited the ER developed wound infection with antibiotic treatment, your chances for infection are greatly reduced when you have a physician clean a deep, debris-filled wound.
If you have gotten stitches, you're still not completely out of the woods. Know the signs of infected stitches.
- Red streaks coming from the wound and moving toward your heart
- Red and painful skin that does not change color
- Warm, oozing, swollen stitches site
- Fever of 100 F or higher
If you have any of these symptoms whether you have stitches or not, call your doctor.
Sometimes when you go to the doctor to get stitches, you discover that not all stitches look the same. Some doctors will use surgical glue or liquid stitches to treat the wound.
This leads to the question, why can't we just use liquid stitches at home?
You can apply liquid stitches on a clean wound on your own at home and avoid the hassle that comes with getting stitches. Liquid stitches are dissolvable stitches that you place directly on the wound to hold the edges of torn skin together. The liquid dries and closes the wound at the same time, protecting the wound from infection.
You may choose liquid stitches over traditional sutures for a variety of reasons:
- You can apply the liquid stitches with less pain.
- You do not need anesthesia to close the wound.
- Liquid stitches have less risk of infection. They seal the wound and keep it clean.
- Unlike traditional sutures, liquid stitches are waterproof.
- Liquid stitches lead to less scarring.
- You do not have to go through the uncomfortable process of having stitches removed.
Plus, you save money. The cost of a medical supply like liquid stitches does not compare to an emergency room visit. You have less chance for infection.
If you're considering liquid stitches, you need to be careful of two things. Make sure you're not allergic to the liquid stitches that you choose. Also, if you have diabetes, observe your cut carefully as it will take longer to heal.
Stitch It Up
The next time you ask the question, "Do I need stitches?" run through the laundry list above. You'll be able to make a wise decision quickly. If you can use liquid stitches, do so to save yourself time, pain, and money.
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