Whether your knife slipped while slicing a melon, your elbow split when you fell and hit the pavement, or a sharp object punctured your foot, lacerations can range from mild to severe. Learning to tell the difference and knowing when to seek medical attention can help you ensure proper healing.
Skin lacerations are fairly common, and we see many different types of wounds here at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care in Woodstock, Georgia. If your wound is life-threatening, go straight to an emergency facility, but for all others, urgent care is made for these types of injuries.
Dr. James Lee and our team have developed some guidelines to help you understand the difference between a minor wound you can easily treat at home and an injury that may need stitches.
What kind of wound do you have?
The first step in assessing whether your wound needs stitches is determining what kind of wound you have. Most skin wounds fall into one of four main categories:
When your skin scrapes against something hard or rough (like pavement), especially with great force or impact, you get an abrasion. Skinned knees and road rash are common abrasions.
Because the skin is scraped away, there’s nothing to stitch together, but it’s very important to clean the wound thoroughly. If you have trouble removing dirt and debris from an abrasion, we can help you.
Chefs, mechanics, and woodworkers all have one thing in common — they work with sharp tools. And even the most skilled among them get lacerations, or deep cuts, now and then. Of course, you don’t have to work with tools to suffer a laceration; it can happen to anyone.
Depending on the location of your laceration, bleeding may be profuse. If so, it requires professional cleaning and stitches.
Whether you pricked your finger with a needle or impaled yourself with a nail, puncture wounds can be painful and dangerous.
Even if there’s not much bleeding, the implement may have penetrated deeply enough to damage tissues and organs far beneath the surface of the skin and may have introduced bacteria or other pathogens along with it.
You may need a tetanus shot if you’ve sustained a puncture wound.
Avulsions are the most serious of skin wounds and are often the result of violent car accidents or other traumatic events that crush the body and tear open not only the skin but underlying tissues and muscles. Explosions and gunshot wounds are types of avulsions.
Take care of minor wounds at home
Small cuts that don’t bleed much or that stop bleeding in 10-20 minutes are fine to treat at home following these guidelines:
- Clear out any debris
- Disinfect it
- Stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure and elevating the wounded body part
- Wrap it with a sterile bandage
- Keep it clean and dry
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers if needed, but NOT aspirin, which prolongs bleeding
If you notice any signs of infection, such as redness and swelling that won’t subside, fever, skin that’s hot to the touch, red streaks near the wound, or pus draining from the wound, come see us right away.
When to seek urgent care for your wound
Here are some signs that your wound is more serious and you need expert medical care to ensure proper healing:
- The cut is longer than half an inch
- Bleeding lasts longer than 20 minutes
- The edges of the cut are jagged
- There’s glass or gravel you can’t get out
- Blood is spurting out
- The injury was caused by a serious accident or an animal bite
- The object that cut you was dirty or rusty
If any of these scenarios describes your wound, come to Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care immediately. We can assess the severity of your wound, give you a tetanus shot if you have a puncture wound, and close the wound with stitches if necessary.
What are stitches?
Stitches, also called sutures, are used in much the same way as thread is used to join two pieces of fabric. Typically made of silk or nylon, sutures rejoin the edges of your cut skin and hold them together long enough for natural healing to occur.
Some stitches are designed to dissolve after a few weeks or so, which means you don’t have to come back for removal. This is especially handy for mouth injuries.
Not only do stitches support this natural knitting together of your tissue, they also keep the wound closed during the process, which helps to prevent more bleeding and the onset of infection. Sutures also reduce the size of your scar after the skin has healed.
If you have a serious cut or other type of skin wound that needs medical attention, contact us by phone or online, or simply walk in without an appointment.