Does Your Cut Require Stitches?

It can be hard to tell whether or not a cut requires the attention of a doctor.

When your skin gets cut, skin can heal itself on its own in most instances. Serious cuts however, may require additional care such as stitches so that they heal properly, and without getting infected. If you or your child does wind up with a serious-looking wound, you will probably be left wondering whether you need to visit the urgent care clinic for stitches.


Everybody gets small cuts, skinned knees, animal scratches, or puncture wounds every so often. Fortunately, most minor lacerations often heal without any medical intervention. However, some injuries will require stitches or treatment of other types so that they heal properly.


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An injury may require a visit to an urgent care center, but it can be hard to tell. According to our urgent care physicians, some wounds and lacerations will almost always require a visit to the urgent care clinic and advice going to one of the wound is:

  • The result of the area being impaled by a foreign object
  • The result of a human or an animal bite (oral antibiotics, tetanus booster shot, or even stitches may be needed)
  • Located across or on a joint (The ligaments, tendons, or nerves may be damaged)
  • Gaping open such that it is impossible to press the edges together easily using gentle pressure
  • Sufficiently deep to expose the yellow subcutaneous fatty tissue or dermis
  • On or close to the genitalia
  • On a cosmetically important area, such as your face
  • Bleeding profusely (and the flow doesn’t seem to be slowing)
  • Contaminated or resulting from rusty or dirty objects
  • Caused by a high-pressure impact from a projectile such as a bullet

Getting stitches is typically a painless and routine procedure, but it can be hard to determine whether a cut requires stitches. You should seek medical attention for all cuts, but still follow the best practices discussed below for dealing with cuts.

Foreign Objects Should Be Left Alone

Avoid removing any foreign object such as a piece of metal or a stick that’s stuck in the wound. It is important to do avoid doing that since you don’t know what is struck by the foreign object underneath. It is quite common to encounter situations where an artery has been struck by a foreign object and is actually blocking the bleeding.

Once you pull it out, there’s no longer anything to block the blood flow and this can have serious consequences.

Dirty Wounds and Bites Require Special Treatment

If either you or a member of your household has been bitten by a fellow human or an animal resulting in a laceration that’s more than a superficial abrasion or the injury was caused by a rusty or contaminated object- you need to seek medical attention at once.

If you are an adult and haven’t had a tetanus booster shot within the last decade or so, you will require one immediately. Most children have received their tetanus vaccinations, but such injuries require medical evaluation. The attending physician may require oral antibiotics too.

Clean the Wound If Possible

You should clean the injured area gently if possible before you visit the emergency department by irrigating it thoroughly. It is advisable to use tap water and a dilute antibacterial soap for this. This is an excellent way to clean of just about any wound.

Hydrogen peroxide is not suitable for cleaning wounds because it damages the tissue. If your child has sustained injuries, one of the best things you can do before taking him/her to the ER is cleaning the wound, but only if you have the expertise and time.

Avoid Food and Drink in Case of Stitches

It is advisable to avoid giving your injured child anything to drink or eat before taking him/het to the ER. Doctors may choose to administer some medication to the child before suturing since most children won’t remain still during the process. If the child has eaten anything or had a drink, this may delay treatment.

Apply Pressure & Elevate the Affected Area

Elevate and apply direct pressure to the injured area on the way to the doctor. This is often enough to help slow or stop the bleeding. Most importantly, you should keep calm and drive carefully. It is never a good idea to complicate the situation by either getting involved in an accident or being stopped for speeding.

If the scrape or cut is very minor and not contaminated or deep, you can treat it at home by irrigating it as explained above and then dress it with a bandage and a topical antibiotic.

You should keep a close eye on the wound to monitor its healing. Visit the doctor immediately if you become concerned based on some of the topics we discussed above.

If you or your child has experienced a cut or a wound that looks serious and you can safely come to ER Specialists, we would love to help you.  If you are alone or have any doubt about getting to our facility safely, or, believe you are experiencing a medical emergency please call 911. 

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