Friday April 7 2017
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When Does a Cut Require Stitches?

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If you've got kids, they've got cuts. No matter how often you tell them to be careful or not to do something, they'll continue to accumulate skinned knees and elbows. But which cuts will heal with a simple Band-Aid, and which will need stitches?

While it's not always obvious, here are some guidelines to follow as you try to decide between the bathroom medicine cabinet and the ER:

A cut needs stitches if it is:

  • Deep and gaping: If you can put your fingers on either side of the cut and gently tug it open, then it's gaping. Go to the ER.
  • A skin flap: If the skin has been cut into a sort of “flap” then get it looked at. A cut that doesn’t seem to close on its own may also require medical attention.
  • Bleeding: If the wound continues to bleed for several minutes after applying pressure, it's a good idea to see a medical professional. To slow bleeding, apply firm and direct pressure using a clean towel. If possible, elevate the injured area above the heart.
  • Face wound: These bleed more and tend to scare kids more than other wounds, but they are not more dangerous. They are, however, more prone to scarring. Facial scars have also proven to be a source of psychological trauma in kids.
  • Lip wound: If a cut goes through the lip and into the surrounding skin, it can extremely difficult to match it back up, which can lead to scarring. It's not a bad idea to see a plastic surgeon for this type of lip cut.

If your child's cut does not meet the above criteria, clean the infected area, protect it with an adhesive bandage, keep an eye on how it heals over the next few days, and be on the lookout for signs of infection (swelling, redness or warmth).