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Does This Cut Need Stitches?

By Ari Brown, MDJuly 28, 2010
From the WebMD Archives

This one is on my top 10 FAQ list during after-hours phone calls! So, let me enlighten you so you know what to do next time your child gets a nasty cut or scrape. (And yes, it will happen to you!)

Rule #1: Stitches need to be placed within 12 hours of the injury. Otherwise, closing the wound increases the risk of infection. So, you’ve got to decide before the office opens the next morning.

Rule #2: If you cannot get the bleeding under control, or you can see fat or bone (usually deeper than 1/4 inch), you need to seek medical attention.

Rule #3: Cuts to the eyebrows and lip/skin lines usually need stitches for the best cosmetic result. Since both areas have a definite line, you want the two sides of the wound to have the best chance of finding each other.

Rule #4: Injuries to the mouth and lips bleed like stink, but rarely need stitches. All that blood flow to the area also allows the wounds to heal very quickly.

Rule #5: If the wound is due to a human or cat bite, it needs to be cleaned really well and might require antibiotics. But, these wounds usually do not get stitches.

Rule #6: Wounds that are getting red, tender or are draining need to be seen by a medical provider.

Rule #7: If your child is up to date on his shots, he probably won’t need another tetanus shot. But, check with your doc to be sure.

Rule #8: Sometimes staples or Dermabond (human superglue substance) can be used instead of stitches. But regardless of which method is used, all wounds need to be kept clean.

Rule #9: Stitches and staples need to be removed, but the length of time depends on the location of the injury. The person who places them will give you specific instructions for follow-up.

Rule #10: Don’t freak out. Your child will do better with a calm parent at the helm!

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