Q: My son just fell and cut open his chin. Do I need to get him in for stitches?
A: There are several ways skin is broken—an abrasion or scrape (road rash); lacerations (the standard “cut”); an avulsion (chunk of skin is torn away); and a puncture.
Before rushing to a health care provider, take a peek at the wound. Seeing bone, tendons, muscle or fatty tissue (looks like dry cottage cheese) means that medical attention should be sought for that wound. If the cut is wider than ¾ of an inch, it should be checked. One should also seek medical attention for wounds that won’t stop bleeding, has a foreign body in it or if there is a loss of sensation.
If the cut doesn’t look that bad, it’s fine to take care of the wound at home. IRRIGATE, IRRIGATE and IRRIGATE the wound to make sure it’s really clean. Some over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and bandages can help with healing. Sometimes adhesive strips can help hold the wound together.
If the laceration is concerning, it will probably need repair. Your health care provider can decide if sutures (stitches) or tissue glue can be used. DO NOT use “Super Glue” from home—the wound has to be really clean before repair.
You should seek medical care for a wound that involves an animal bite. In addition, puncture wounds through tennis shoes require attention. If a person has diabetes or is immunocompromised, the wound should be evaluated as well. If you are not sure if the wound needs repair, please call your health care provider to see if the break in skin needs attention.