Wounds heal more quickly and with less risk of infection and scarring when the wound is cleaned and the wound edges are held together (closed). Scrapes, scratches, puncture wounds, and shallow cuts may need only cleaning, ointment, and a bandage. Some cuts may need to be closed with tape strips called Steri-Strips or tissue adhesive liquid (skin glue). If a cut or surgical incision is deep, very long, jagged, or under a lot of tension (such as a cut over a joint), stitches (also called sutures) or staples may be needed to close the wound.
If you get an accidental cut, put pressure on the wound with a gauze pad or clean cloth right away to stop the bleeding. Then gently but thoroughly wash it with soap and cool water. Soapy water can be used around, but not in the cut. Try to remove all dirt and debris but do not scrub vigorously. If you decide to get medical treatment, cover the wound and apply pressure as needed to control bleeding while traveling to your healthcare provider's office, urgent care clinic, or emergency room.
After a wound is closed by your healthcare provider, the wound and the area around it must be kept clean and dry. The care of a stapled wound is similar to the care of a sutured wound. There are minor differences in caring for a wound closed with skin glue.
Any wound can become infected. When you are cleaning your wound, look for these signs of infection:
Contact your provider if you see any signs of infection.
If your wound was accidental, be sure to ask if a tetanus booster is needed. Treatment of accidental wounds may include taking an oral antibiotic to help prevent infection. Be sure to take the medicine until it is completely gone. Do not stop taking it just because the wound looks like it is healing well.
Steri-Strips are usually left on until they fall off. If they have not fallen off after 2 weeks, they should be removed. Skin glue usually falls off on its own in 5 to 10 days.
For deep cuts the first stitches are placed under the skin. These stitches are made of materials that dissolve and do not need to be removed. Sutures or staples on the surface of the skin need to be removed by your healthcare provider 5 to 14 days after they are put in. The length of time depends on where the cut is. Sutures in wounds on the face usually can be removed after 5 to 7 days. In areas of high stress, such as hands, knees, or elbows, the sutures must stay in 10 to 14 days. Your provider will tell you when you should come to the office for removal of your sutures or staples. Do NOT remove sutures or staples yourself unless your provider instructs you to do so. Staples are removed using a special tool. If you don’t have the tool, don’t try to remove the staples.
Some swelling, redness, and pain are common with all wounds and normally go away as the wound heals.
Call your provider right away if: