When you get a small cut, you probably treat it by applying a bandage. This is usually enough to keep it dry and clean in order to heal properly. However, for larger cuts and minor lacerations, stitches, also known as sutures, will be necessary as those wounds can’t heal on their own. Stitches are also needed for incisions from surgical procedures. The placing of stitches is very safe, but patients may have questions about their aftercare. Here are some tips on how to best care for stitches in order to avoid infections or scarring and to keep them as clean, healthy, and pain-free as possible.
Keep the wound clean.
It is normally recommended that you keep the wound dry for 24 hours after the procedure. This minimizes the chance of infection. Following this 24 hours, you can clean the wound using gentle dabs with a moist rag. After any dirt, debris, and leaking fluids have been removed; it’s advisable to keep the wound covered with a bandage. Children should avoid playing in sand, dirt, or mud until the stitches are removed.
Avoid excessive water.
Of course, water can be used to clean the wound, but you should avoid submerging it in water or exposing it to excessive moisture, which can negatively impact the stitches’ integrity. Swimming and baths should be avoided completely until the stitches are removed. Showers are allowed, but keep the wound from being sprayed head-on and don’t stay in the shower for too long. If the wound does get wet, gently pat it dry.
Resist the urge to scratch.
Stitches can get very itchy as the wound heals, but it’s important to resist the urge to scratch them. Doing so can increase the chance of infection if the fingers and hands are dirty and could possibly even pull or rip the stitches. Children are especially tempted to scratch the wound, so it is recommended that parents cover the wound with gauze and antibiotic ointment, which can help to keep fingers away.
Keep movement limited.
Moving the wound excessively could potentially rip the stitches and even reopen the wound, so it’s best to make an effort to limit putting pressure on or near it. Most adults can easily follow this tip, but it may be more challenging for children to adhere to as they not only actively play, but are more inclined to forget about their stitches. For this reason, contact sports should be avoided until the stitches are removed. Not all movements are off-limits, but children should be monitored and be made to understand the importance of not putting stress on that tender area.
If the stitches become painful or red, start to swell, develop pus or a foul odor, or a fever develops, you should return to the doctor as these are signs of infection. However, following these tips should allow the stitches to heal well.