Ouch! Does This Wound Need Emergency Care?

Minor scrapes and cuts usually don’t require urgent care unless the wound gets infected or is exceptionally slow to heal. With more serious cuts, how can you tell when you need medical help or stitches? Here’s a guide on how to tell the difference between a cut you can treat at home and a gash that requires medical attention.


What Are Stitches?

Stitches provide support for a wound. They can stop the flow of blood and hold the edges of a cut together while it heals. Stitches can reduce the potential for infection and bleeding while minimizing scars. Some stitches dissolve. Others must be removed by a doctor. Stitches may be made of silk, nylon or other materials.


When Do I Need to See a Doctor?

Examine the wound after rinsing off any blood or dirt. See a doctor if the injury resulted from a projectile, a human or an animal bite or a rusty, pointed or dirty object. You should also visit an urgent care clinic if a bullet or any other object has deeply penetrated the skin. Even if you don’t need stitches, you might need antibiotics, a tetanus shot or both. If there’s an embedded object in the wound like a nail or a toothpick, don’t remove it. You could make the injury worse.


When Do I Need Stitches?

If you think you may need treatment, see a doctor or visit an urgent care clinic within six to eight hours after the injury occurs. It can be difficult to know for sure whether you need stitches. You probably need stitches if any of the following are true:

  • The cut is deep, has ragged edges or is longer than 1/2 inch.
  • You can see bone, muscle or yellow fatty tissue inside the cut.
  • The cut is on your face, finger, hand or genital area.
  • The injury is still bleeding profusely after 10 minutes, is spurting blood or soaks through bandages.
  • The wound won’t close easily, or it’s located over a joint.
  • The cut contains embedded glass, sand, gravel, dirt or a foreign object.


How Do I Know If a Cut Is Infected?

  • Cuts that aren’t serious can still get infected. Your cut could be infected if:
  • There are red streaks around the cut, or the skin surrounding the injury is inflamed.
  • The wound and surrounding skin are getting more painful or oozing pus.
  • You have chills or a fever of 100 degrees or more.
  • You feel like throwing up.


What Should I Do Before Seeing a Doctor?

Clean the wound gently with antibacterial liquid soap. Flush the area with a gentle stream of water. Avoid using cotton; it can get stuck in the wound. Pat dry and apply a clean bandage. Create gentle pressure on the wound with a bandage or a clean wash cloth. Hold the injured area above the heart if possible to reduce bleeding. If the wound bleeds through a bandage, just apply another bandage over the original one instead of replacing it.


How Should I Care for the Cut After I Get Treated?

Your doctor will give you detailed instructions. Aftercare will probably involve keeping the wound clean while applying antibiotic ointment and fresh bandages. Monitor the injury for signs of infection. If infection occurs, see a doctor as soon as possible.


If you think you need stitches or treatment for a cut in Dallas or Fort Worth, visit Integra Urgent Care. Walk-in patients are welcome. We also provide video visits if you’d prefer to be treated at home.

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