Ouch! You have an injury and it appears to be quite severe. It can sometimes be difficult to tell if an open wound requires stitches, which helps it heal properly and reduces the risk of scarring. If you're unsure whether a wound needs stitches and don't want to waste time if it doesn't need stitches, here are some helpful tips and tricks you can use to find out if an open wound really needs medical attention.
Part 1 of 2: Reasons to Visit a Doctor ASAP
Step 1. Try to stop the bleeding as much as you can
Elevate the injured body part higher than heart level, as this can help reduce bleeding. Use a clean cloth or paper towel (kitchen paper) that is slightly damp, and press firmly on the open wound for five minutes. Then remove the cloth or paper towel and check for any bleeding from the wound.
- If there is heavy bleeding, do not proceed to the next step, but go to the hospital as soon as possible.
- If the bleeding is uncontrollable, or blood is gushing profusely from the wound, call emergency services immediately, as this can be life threatening.
Step 2. Check for objects lodged in the wound area
If there is a foreign object in the wound, seek a doctor immediately. This is because of the risk of infection, so it is important to know if you can and how to remove the object safely, and also to know if you need stitches.
Don't try to get rid of the thing. Sometimes it helps stop heavy bleeding from the wound. If there is something stuck in the wound, you should seek a doctor in the emergency department as soon as possible
Step 3. Seek a doctor immediately if the wound was caused by an animal or human bite
Such wounds carry a greater risk of infection, and you may need to be vaccinated as a preventative measure, and receive antibiotics, so whether the wound requires stitches or not, you should seek medical attention from a doctor.
Step 4. Examine the wound area
If the wound is on the face, hands, mouth, or genitals, it should be examined by a doctor, as you may need stitches for reasons of proper appearance and healing of the wound.
Part 2 of 2: Knowing If a Wound Needs Stitches
Step 1. Understand why sutures are needed
Wound sutures have a variety of uses. The most common reasons for getting sutures are:
- To close a wound that is too wide to be closed any other way. Using sutures to close both sides of the wound can help speed up wound healing.
- To prevent infection. If you have a large, wide wound, closing the wound with stitches can help reduce the risk of infection (because torn skin, especially large, wide open wounds, are the main routes for an infection to enter the body).
- To prevent or reduce scarring after the wound has healed. This is especially important if the injury is on a body part that is important to appearance, such as the face.
Step 2. Check the depth of the wound
If the wound is more than 6 millimeters deep, it may need stitches. If the wound is deep enough that you can see yellow tissue, or even bone, you should definitely see a doctor for treatment.
Step 3. Check the width of the wound
Are the two sides of the wound close together, or do they have to be pulled to cover the exposed tissue? If both sides of the wound have to be pulled to cover the wide open tissue, this is a sign that suturing may be necessary. By pulling the two sides of the wound close enough that they touch, stitches can help speed healing.
Step 4. Look at the wound
If the open wound is located on a specific part of the body that involves a lot of movement, it will most likely need stitches to prevent the wound from opening again caused by movement and stretching of the skin. For example, an open wound in the knee or finger joint (especially where the joint connects) will need stitches, while an open wound in the thigh will not need stitches.
Step 5. Ask your doctor if you need an anti-tetanus shot
Anti-tetanus shots don't last more than ten years, so after that you will need to be vaccinated again. Go to the hospital if you have an open wound and it has been more than ten years since you last had an anti-tetanus shot.
While in the hospital, have the doctor examine the wound and ask if stitches are needed
- If you're afraid of scarring, it's a good idea to go to the hospital for stitches as they can prevent severe scarring and can help the wound heal properly.
- If you're still unsure about whether your wound needs stitches and a doctor's check, it's a good idea to go to the hospital for a check-up.
- Be sure to visit the hospital if bleeding is persistent or uncontrolled, or the wound is contaminated.
- Make sure you get regular injections and vaccinations to prevent serious infections and illnesses.