Skin wounds are one of the most common conditions we see here at GoHealth Urgent Care. And patients ask us lots of questions about them! What do you do if you sustain a skin wound? How do you know if you need stitches? If you don’t need stitches, should you still seek medical attention? We’re glad you asked! Here’s everything you need to know about skin wounds and stitches.
1) Flushing is The First Step.
Whether you sustain an abrasion or a laceration, the first thing you should do is flush the wound with clean, running water. You don’t need rubbing alcohol or peroxide or iodine, since it’s the movement of the fluid carrying contaminants away from the wound that matters, not what the fluid is made of.
Also, when it comes to burns, the same guidelines apply. Flushing the skin with cool, clean water is the best way to cool down the burn and prevent it from getting infected. Don’t apply butter, oil or ice, since these tend to trap heat in the skin and make the burn worse.
2) Apply Pressure.
If you’re actively bleeding, the next step after flushing the wound is to apply pressure with a clean cloth. This puts pressure on the blood vessels to slow down the bleeding, and also helps prevent contaminants from infiltrating the skin, which can lead to infection.
3) Check Your Tetanus Shot Status.
For minor skin wounds, it’s recommended that you have had a tetanus shot within the past ten years. For major wounds, it’s recommended that you have had a tetanus shot within the past five years. If you’re not sure when your last tetanus shot was, it’s wise to have it updated to be on the safe side. The tetanus shot is not a live vaccine, so it can’t make you ill, even if you’ve had one more recently than you remember.
4) Seek Medical Attention for Significant Wounds.
If you sustain a cut deeper than ¼ inch, a cut on your fingers or hand, a cut over a joint, a cut with visible muscle, tendons or bone, or a cut that doesn’t stop bleeding within 15 minutes, chances are good that you’ll need stitches (or another form of wound closure). If you’re not sure, it’s wise to have a medical consultation since wounds that aren’t treated appropriately can cause excessive blood loss, as well as infections and excessive scarring.
5) Seek Medical Attention As Soon As Possible.
If you think you need stitches, come see us as soon as possible! Wounds that are closed within six hours of the injury have much lower rates of infection than wounds that are closed beyond that window. If you wait too long to have your wound addressed, you risk infection, bleeding and excessive scarring, and you could end up needing to take an oral antibiotic as well.
6) Watch Out for Signs of Infection.
Even if you do everything right, there’s still a chance your wound could get infected, since any break in the skin allows an opportunity for contaminants to get in. If your wound becomes red, hot, painful, swollen, if it drains pus, or if you have a fever, seek medical attention immediately.
We're Here to Help.
At GoHealth Urgent Care, we’re here seven days a week to care for you! We offer comprehensive wound care, including stitches, skin glue, skin tape and staples, and we have tetanus shots on hand as well. If you need us, click below to save your spot: