Getting Stitches

Our local hospital once did a marketing campaign based on my family. The slogan “We can handle any emergency, even the Kowalski boys” along with a photo of three boys diving off a dock was plastered on billboards and in newspaper and magazine ads throughout North Texas.

What’s sad is that it was true. The first time my oldest son saw the ad was in a magazine while waiting to get sewed up after a bicycle accident. He wound up with 64 stitches in his face.

Over the years and through multiple cuts and scrapes, I’ve gotten to be an expert at stitches – whether they’re needed and how many.

My husband was cutting a tree in the backyard, using long trimmers to cut a branch over his head. The branch cracked and the sharp edge crashed down on his face, just missing his eye and cutting his eyebrow. He came inside with blood running down his cheek to ask if he should get stitches. I told him I could put a bandage on it or he could go get sewed up. I estimated four stitches. He got five.

So how do you know if you need stitches or just a bandage?

Well, if it’s spurting blood, you’re going to need to get medical assistance – and quickly. If it won’t stop bleeding even when you put a bandage and pressure on it, time to go. If it’s gaping, has ragged edges, longer than an inch looks deep, or has gravel, glass, or debris in it, see a doctor.

And there’s something else we don’t play with – dog or human bites that bleed, cuts caused by rusty or dirty objects or that look really deep can need stitches and a tetanus shot. If you need convincing, look up lockjaw. Yikes!

Another thing to keep in mind is where the cut is. If it’s in an area that is going to stretch, like a knee or elbow, stitches can keep it from re-opening every time you move and getting infected. If the cut is on your face, getting stitches means you’re less likely to have a scar.

It took some time to perfect my stitch-predicting skill. When my middle son was in high school, he slit his palm open with a box cutter at work. The cut wasn’t deep or dirty, but it was about 6 inches long. I bandaged him up. When his dad came home, he took one look at it and took him to the med clinic for a dozen stitches. The cut would have healed by itself, but it was in a sensitive spot, the doctor said.

The best thing to do is if you don’t know whether or not you need stitches, get a physician to check it out.

Of course, you could even end up on a billboard.

By Amanda Rogers for Surepoint Medical Centers


Amanda Rogers is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas

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