CareNow® - June 27, 2022

When to go to urgent care for a cut

We’ve all been there. You’re opening a can of soup and accidentally cut yourself on the lid. Or perhaps you’re going for a jog, trip, and fall. Children are even more notorious for constantly ending up with cuts and scrapes.

When left untreated, severe cuts and scraps can end up getting infected, so it’s important that you know what type of treatment your injury requires. We’re sharing exactly when you should seek medical attention for a cut or scrape and when you may be able to treat it at home.

What to do when you get a cut or scrape

If you’ve got a cut or scrape, it’s important that you immediately wash your hands to avoid infection, then work to stop the bleeding.

Most minor cuts and scrapes will stop bleeding on their own; however, some wounds will require you to apply light pressure using a cloth or clean bandage. You may also need to keep the wound elevated until the bleeding subsides.

Once you’ve stopped the bleeding, you will want to rinse the wound with water and wash the area surrounding the wound with soap and water— it’s important that don’t actually get soap in the wound.

An antibiotic ointment can keep the area around the wound moist and help to prevent scarring. Always cover the wound with a bandage or gauze, unless it is very minor.

When to go get stitches

Whether or not your cut requires stitches will depend on several factors. Once you’ve had a chance to stop the bleeding, you should assess the severity of the wound, then ask yourself the following questions.

Is the cut deep enough for stitches?

Before you head to the doctor or urgent care, take a look at the cut. If it appears deep and gaping, you will most likely need stitches to close the wound. The rule of thumb is that a cut deeper than a quarter of an inch should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Can I get the bleeding to stop?

If you’ve applied pressure to the wound for 10 minutes without slowing or stopping the bleeding completely, you may need stitches. This is also the case if you’ve applied a bandage, but the wound is soaking through it.

Where is the wound located?

If your cut is on an area of your body that you regularly move or stretch (think elbows, mouth, and knees), you’re at risk of it opening back up and failing to heal properly. Stitches can ensure that your cut stays closed for as long as is needed for it to heal. If you’re worried about the cut scarring, stitches are also a great way to minimize your risk.

How did you get the cut?

Cutting yourself on a dirty or rusty object like a nail puts you at a heightened risk for infection. If you’re worried about the object which you cut yourself on, you may want to see a doctor who can check the wound for harmful bacteria or disease — even if stitches aren’t needed.

Can I go to urgent care for stitches?

One of the most convenient options if you believe you need stitches is an urgent care clinic. Most urgent care facilities, like CareNow®, are able to get you in and out quickly, so you can get back to the things that matter most.

In most cases, you will also pay less at an urgent care clinic than you would an emergency room. Check the clinic’s website prior to your visit to see which insurance plans are accepted. If you don’t have insurance, CareNow also offers competitive self-pay rates.

Learn More About Urgent Care Services

What to expect when getting stitches

For many people, the fear of getting stitches may prevent them from properly treating a cut. However, knowing what to expect going into it can help alleviate some of those fears. If you’re in need of stitches, here’s what you can expect.

In order to minimize discomfort during the process, the doctor will numb the area using a local anesthetic. He or she will then make sure the wound is clean and that any dirt or debris has been removed.

Next, your doctor will sew the wound together using suture needles. This is typically done in a matter of minutes, depending on the severity of the cut.

You will need to return to get the stitches removed (usually within a week or two); however, the removal process is much simpler and less painful.

How do you care for stitches?

You should receive direction from your doctor or nurse on how to care for your stitches. In most cases, you’ll be instructed to keep the affected area dry for at least 24 hours to help avoid infection.

You should be able to clean the area using soap and water within a day. It’s a good idea to avoid swimming until your stitches have been removed. As difficult as it may be, you should also avoid scratching the area as you could pull the stitches out.

When to see a doctor after getting stitches

You will need to re-visit your doctor when it’s time to have the stitches removed. Your doctor will advise you how long that will be, but in most cases, stitches are taken out within a week or two.

While your stitches are in place, it’s important that you monitor the wound for any signs of infection. The following symptoms can indicate an infection is present:

  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Pus or bleeding
  • Increasing pain
  • Redness around the area that worsens
  • Bad odor coming from the wound
  • A red streak that moves upward from the wound

If you believe you are in need of stitches or simply want to get your cut or scrape evaluated by a medical professional, consider visiting your local CareNow urgent care.

We’ve earned the distinction of Accredited Urgent Care Center from our industry’s association, Urgent Care Association (UCA), so you know you’re getting only the best care.

We also have more than 175 urgent care clinics throughout the country — each open after hours and on the weekend for the most convenient care.

Don’t forget to take advantage of our Web Check-In® feature before your visit so you can wait from anywhere!

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