Do You Really Need Stitches? Or will a Band-Aid do?

Bandage or Stitches?Your 5-year-old falls at the park again after attempting something insane, like jumping from the top of one picnic table to the other. He runs to you sobbing with his hand holding the side of his head, and all you can think is, “He knows better!” You interrupt your first adult conversation of the day to give him a hug only to see blood gushing out from between his fingers. After suppressing the urge to laugh hysterically, you switch to emergency mode, apply pressure, snag a piece of ice from another mom’s cooler, all the while making soothing sounds and saying, “You’re OK,” over and over.

Many parents have been there before, except for those rare creatures whose kids always make ‘good choices.’ For the rest of us, the next big question, after making sure he’ll live, is, “Do I really have to take him and my four other kids to the hospital and pay a $100 co-pay?”

This was me last Friday. Plus, my 3-month-old baby woke up because of all the shrieking and wanted to nurse. And my three other kids, 8 and under, were playing at the park and didn’t want to leave, “RIGHT NOW!”, and get in the car.

TIP : Find the closest urgent care clinics covered by your insurance before the next emergency. The co-pay is usually half what the ER costs. There’s no time to do this when the blood is gushing – I know!  Make sure to give them a call and ask specifics: do they place stitches, have an x-ray machine, cast broken bones, and have a nebulizer or ‘breathing treatment’ machine? You don’t want to arrive, only to find out it’s a geriatric urgent care.

So, I’ll share my hard-won knowledge with this quick and practical ‘How-to’ guide on wounds and stitches:

  1. How many layers deep is the cut?
  2. If the cut goes through multiple layers of skin, it usually needs stitches to keep the wound edges in the right place while it is healing. Not to be gross, but if you can see something besides skin, like bone or yellow bits of fat, deep in the cut, then you should get stitches. In general, a cut more than a ¼ in. deep should get stitches.

  3. How long is the cut and does it gape open?
  4. The longer the cut, the more the wound edges can move around and heal ‘crooked’ or with bunched up areas of skin. Also, if it gapes open it will likely heal that way with a wider area of scar tissue. A good rule of thumb is to get stitches if it is over ¾ of an inch long.

  5. Are the edges clean or ragged?
  6. A small cut by a kitchen knife is a great example of a cut that doesn’t need stitches. The straight edges of the wound will heal with almost no scar. An impact wound that has pulled the skin apart leaving ragged edges will have a hard time healing well. The ragged edges need to be trimmed smooth before stitching so they don’t bunch up while healing or die off providing a nice spot for an infection to take hold.

  7. Are there possible serious complications?
  8. This may seem like a no-brainer, but if the wound is near anything important, you should get medical treatment. This would be anywhere with important nerves, like cuts to the face, hands and feet. Also cuts deep and close to joints should be stitched for two reasons: One, they are a pain to keep from opening up every time you bend the joint, and two, an infection that gets into a joint can be very serious. Plus, make sure you have an updated tetanus shot if there are any suspicious objects involved in causing the wound.

  9. Where is the wound? (ie. Do you want a scar or not?)
  10. Ok, if you really don’t care what it’s going to look like afterwards, or you enjoy using the occasional scar as a conversation starter, then you really don’t need to get stitches for minor injuries. Your body will just fill in the area with scar tissue. Your main goal, in this case, is to clean the wound and keep it from getting infected.

If you decide to stay home (and save the copay)

  1. Start by cleaning the wound out well. Irrigate gently with lots of water and make sure to get any particles, rocks, slivers, etc., out of the wound.
  2. Put on an initial antibiotic treatment – ointment, first aid wash, etc.
  3. Apply any herbal wound remedies you like.
  4. Use a bandage to hold the wound closed in the way you want it to heal.

If you’re using a bandaid:

  • Get a good quality one that will stay on well – the fabric ones seem to work best on my kids.
  • Attach the bandaid to one side of the wound, pull the skin and wound closed, as straight as possible, and stick down on the other side.
  • Start at one edge of the wound and work your way to the other (or the middle and work your way to the edges). Don’t be afraid to use plenty of bandaids. If you leave any of the wound gaping, it will heal that way. Try to keep the bandages protected and dry so they keep the wound edges together for at least the first 3 days or so. The less you disturb the wound, the less it will scar, and the more likely it will heal the way you bandaged it.

If you’re using ‘closure tape’ or ‘steri-strips’, which you can order from medical supply stores:
(For those who have lots of crazy, ‘no-fear’ little boys, and want to plan ahead)

  • Paint a bit of Benzoin Tincture on either side of the wound without getting it in the wound – think ‘glue stick’. You can buy this at the ‘old school’ pharmacies in most areas – call around. It really helps the closure tape stay stuck for days instead of hours, but you can do without it in a pinch.
  • Ditto above: Apply the tape to one side and pull the wound closed as straight as possible and stick it to the other side. Continue until the entire wound is pulled together as straight as possible.

Good luck and if you’re curious to see how our picnic table adventure ended, see my next post on how to remove stitches.

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125 comments to Do You Really Need Stitches? Or will a Band-Aid do?

  • Hi Judy,

    First thing to do in a bleeding situation is to apply pressure until it stops bleeding. Then run through the items in the article: is it really deep, really wide, any nerve problems – can’t move or tingling – then seek help. If it’s a small cut that stops bleeding after 5 – 15 minutes of pressure and there aren’t any deep tissues, nerves, tendons, etc., involved, you can likely go without stitches. Just use good bandage tape, instead of stitches, to bring the wound edges together. Make sure not to put tension on it or pop it back open. Keep it dry and covered for about a week. You want it moist but not soaked. And yes, finger injuries hurt a lot – you have tons of nerves in your hands and fingers. Sorry 🙁


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and is not medical advice.

  • judy

    I cut my 4th finger right side of top trying to cut bread in half is bleeding a lot do I need stitiches how do you know .in alots of pain

  • Hi John,

    Usually you’re more likely to scar if:
    – the cut is wide
    – the cut is reopened and has to heal again
    – you allow the cut to dry out
    – just because scars form sometimes 🙁

    To help prevent:
    – keep wound covered and moist for first few days up to the first week
    – keep tension off the wound – don’t let it get pulled on
    – Once the wound has knit together, massage Vitamin E oil, comfrey ointment, and other herbal rememdies into the wound
    – Always use sunscreen every day for the first year on the scar to keep it from darkening permanently in the sun!

    Good luck!


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • john

    hot my forehead on an aircraft wing the other day at work, been a small aircraft the thickness of the wings trailing edge was a cm thick leaving me a cut if an inch long and 2-3 mm wide.
    not much blood but rapid bruising and a bump.
    Been tot he doctor they said no stitches required or glue.

    They put this X shape plasters and asked to go back in 3-4 days.
    How are the chances of getting scar?
    Been given contratubex….
    I had 2 and 3rd degree burns on my face and went away , I wonder if this will also….

  • Sorry – somehow I missed your comment. Hopefully everything turned out well!

  • I know – head wounds sure bleed a lot and look really scary. I’m glad the info here helped out and hope everything is healing up well!

  • Shanna

    Oh thanks to you all who’ve experienced what I went through this afternoon. Fell off skooter & slammed back of her head on the wall. Nasty split w/ lots of blood. Urgent care said looks worse than it is & she’ll be fine. My call on the stitches which they said it’s probably not neccessary I opted no. But I’m a worry wort.

  • Maddy


    This evening I was making dinner for my dad and cutting a tomato with a small kitchen knife (My dad got me the small ones because he was afraid I would cut myself with the bigger one) and cut my middle finger near the nail. The wound didn’t look that deep or bad but a couple hours later, I’m still bleeding through the two band-aids I had on. Should I go see a doctor or what? My finger hurts something bad and it’s still bleeding. I dunno what to do!

    Please help! Thank you so much!

  • Jessie,

    I have four boys, so the swinging from the shower curtain is completely understandable! 🙂

    Head wounds tend to bleed like crazy and look much more scary than they are. Of more concern would be the hit to the head. Worrisome things would be loss of consciousness, altered mental status (like confused, forgetting things, etc.), severe headache, pupils different or not getting smaller in reaction to light. None of these are very common, but it’s good to know what to watch for.

    As far as the bleeding, the scalp under the hair is difficult to stitch and your in-laws are right – the scar will not be visible. If the wound is not deep, it’s usually fine to allow it to heal on it’s own. Again the downside is that you’ll need to work to keep it from getting pulled open. If his hair is long enough and he doesn’t mind, you can gently pull a small amount of hair from either side of the wound and fasten it with a small hair rubber band and leave that in for a few days while it heals.

    Otherwise, I would try to keep it dry for a few days. You can gently clean away the crusty mess with a warm damp rag, but I wouldn’t shower it for at least 3 days or so. You can also apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment the first day or two, but not too many days, since it can be irritating. This can also help soften things up after a few minutes for the gently cleaning mentioned above.

    I hope that helps, and I always encourage parents to go with their instincts – if something is really bothering you about how he is or how the wound looks, it’s best to get another opinion from someone who can look at it.

    Hope he does better quickly!


    (Disclaimer – As always, please consult your physician for medical advice. All content on the website is for informational purposes only.)

  • Jessie

    My son was swinging from the shower curtain this evening (can’t believe I’m actually typing these words as they sound like a joke)…I heard the dreaded scream from the bathroom and found a gash in the back of his head. I wasn’t sure if I should get stitches or not. My in-laws seem to think that because it’s on the back of his head, there’s no reason to do it because we’d never see the scar. I’m ok leaving it but I just woke him to take a look at it and it’s still slowly bleeding. Is that normal? How long will it bleed? It’ll be a crusty mess in the morning. Do I have him shower or leave it alone or what??

  • Brandy,

    I’m sorry you took offense at my choice of words.

    My emphasis was on the word “hysterically” – as in panicking, where you seem to be focusing on the word “laugh” and somehow misconstruing it as uncaring or belittling of the situation. You’re welcome to interpret what I write however you want, but to then jump to the idea that it discredits me and the information shared in this article seems to be a bit of a stretch.

    Laughter during emergencies is just one of many responses, none of which are better or more ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ than others. Laughter also may actually help someone stay in better control and be more effective in dealing with an emergency. Humor can help calm those involved and take their mind off the pain and worry about the emergency.

    If you’re really interested, take some time to read studies done on laughter in emergency service personnel and how it helps them deal with sometimes horrific situations.

    Gaining more knowledge about how people respond differently to stress and emergencies can increase compassion, tolerance, and an understanding that people are different, not better or worse than each other.


  • Brandy

    Seriously? “After suppressing the urge to laugh hysterically”

    That could have been left out, it was almost useful but this line discredits you.

  • Jeff,

    You’re right – that size cut can heal fine on it’s own if you don’t mind the scar. The best now is to keep it dry for the next week or so and don’t let it reopen. Keep an eye out for signs of infection, but try to disturb it as little as possible. I’d also put some antibiotic ointment on it once or twice – not too frequently, because it can irritate and inflame wounds if used too often.

    We just got our first snow here – surfing? I’m jealous 🙂

    Glad to help.


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • jeff

    I just sliced my shin with the sharp fin of my surfboard. It felt more like a bruise at first, but it’s probably about 1/4″ deep and 3/4″ long, and it’s open. I don’t care about scar tissue. I cleaned it out pretty thoroughly in the shower just now and put a sterile pad held in place securely by two big band-aids. From reading your posts, it seems like I could get away with not getting stitches as long as I don’t mind a little extra scarring right? Thanks so much, your post is VERY helpful.

  • Hi Nelly,

    Being on the face, it’s generally a good idea to have it looked at. However, if it really is only 3 – 4 mm wide, it will likely only need one or two stitches, and could also heal without a stitch. Of course, it’s difficult to tell what to do without actually seeing the wound.

    Going first thing in the morning is probably fine. You can also take a peek at it. If it’s already closed pretty well they will likely not put a stitch in it.

    Yes, human saliva is full of bacteria and about 10 – 15% of human bite wounds tend to get infected, so you’re right to keep an eye on it. You still would just clean it well and stitch or tape it, but be a bit more vigilant watching for signs of infection (spreading redness, heat, pus. etc.)

    Hope she is ok.


  • Nelly

    Hi, my daughter Melody, is 4 years old, she fell off the bed and hit her lower lip on the dresser drawer. Her upper tooth cut through her lower lip as she slammed into the closed drawer. The cut is a rather clean one with a straight edge but im worried that being 2-3 cm below the edge of her bottom lip, it will constantly be opening when she eats or laughs or cries etc. I dont know what to do, the cut os only like the tip of a pinky finger wide, it went through the entire lower lip. Im so worried about an ugly scar on her pretty face. Also aren’t injuries involving teeth extra prone to infection? Ill be taking her with her pediatrician tomorrow since it is late already and I want to avoid going to the ER. Help!!!

  • Hi Wendy,

    The hands and fingers have a LOT more sensation and nerves than many other parts of the body, so it makes sense that injuries there can be extremely painful. Plus, we use our fingers all the time, so finger injuries tend to get bumped and used more frequently when we forget they are injured.

    Check the other info in this article – depth of cut/through other tissues, length of cut, whether you care about a scar, chance of re-opening (over a joint), etc.

    If none of those are a concern, the bleeding has stopped, and you can keep from using it too much (which may re-open the wound), you’re likely fine letting it heal at home.

    The pain will be there whether or not you have stitches. The only benefit, pain-wise, to stitches is that if they keep the wound from re-opening, you may heal faster and have less pain than a wound that re-opens.

    You can also try keeping the hand elevated (prop on a pillow when you sleep) to help with the swelling, which contributes to the painful throbbing. If you ice it, make sure not to overdo it – so, 10 – 20 minutes at a time. Don’t let the finger get numb, because you don’t want to compromise circulation.

    And if you have access to some comfrey root powder, mix it with a teaspoon or so of boiling water to make a paste, apply while warm, wrap and leave it on overnight. Comfrey has allantoin that stimulates healing and tissue growth and can decrease healing time by quite a bit. It’s great stuff – I grow it in my backyard.

    Hope that helps,


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • Wendy

    p.s. to quantify the amount of pain… I took 2 extra strength Tylenol 3 hours ago. If my fingertip hits the R or T with normal pressure while typing, I would rate the pain a 6.

    I guess the extra pain is probably because part of nail bed is exposed… so maybe the extra pain is not so unexpected…???

  • Wendy

    I too am trying to decide about stitches or not.

    My cut was this morning with a small kitchen knife (serrated and new). It cut the tip of my first finger on the diagonal,cutting right thru the nail and taking a piece of skin. It was super painful and about to gush and I quickly got a thick band-aid on it to close it and apply pressure. I didn’t get a chance to clean it or even get a close look. It is still painful. (can’t type r or t!)

    Even the thought of removing the bandaid to cleanse it is painful. Does the amount of pain indicate a more likely need for stitches?

    I don’t want to pay the 100 co-pay either. (this new age insurance model is surely broken if this is what it comes to!)

  • Hi Andrea,

    Usually 10 days is too late to have stitches, since the wound edges will have already healed. However, if it isn’t healing well and is gaping open, they can clean up the wound edges – like trimming and cutting them straight – to get a new raw edge that can be stitched. It’s painful, but sometimes necessary.

    Without seeing the wound it’s hard to tell what the best thing to do is. If you feel like it isn’t healing well and is gaping open, it’s best to have a family doc take a look at it.

    However, if you’ve been able to keep it clean, it’s not infected, and you’re able to tape or bandage it so it doesn’t get popped open, it will continue to heal on it’s own if you give it more time, though likely with a scar.

    Hope that helps,


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • Andrea

    My son Chris 10 days ago was running and he said he cut his leg on a mailbox. The cut is on his calf muscle and about 18inches long. The very middle is where you can see some of the white meat is it to late for him to get stitches. Please let me know ASAP. Thank you

  • Hi Sandra,

    You can have some numbness and tingling from the swelling, especially if it wasn’t immediate after the injury. A cut nerve would have immediate numbness and tingling. Also, a nerve heal slowly, but it should get better steadily. It may be a slow process of a few weeks to even a month or two. If it’s getting worse or not improving, I’d probably have it looked at.

    However, if it was a small amount of nerve damage, at this point there may not be much that can be done – just wait and see how the body heals it up. I’m not a hand surgeon, but the way I understand it, if a nerve is cut, it usually requires surgery to fix it while the injury is new. Once healing starts, or if the damage is small, there isn’t much to do but wait and see how it improves.

    It doesn’t hurt to have a doctor take a look at it and give you a second opinion if it’s bothering you.

    Hope that helps. Good luck!


  • Sandra

    I cut my hand hand 8 days ago…while I was cutting an Avocado and removing the pit I stabbed my left palm right under my middle finger…I went to the ER had no stiches because my hand was swollen and bruiseing. Now the wound is great but my finger is numb and tingling. They said I didnt hit a nerve. what do you think I should do? should I go back to the DR.’s office or will it take some time to heal?

  • Glad it all turned out well! Sometimes it helps to have someone else look at it and verify what we were thinking. Hopefully it will heal up quickly.

    We really like using herbal ointments to speed up healing – comfrey is one of the best and stimulates tissue growth. Look for that as an ingredient in a healing balm. I make some for friends and family called Turtlebalm, but you can usually find that kind of thing at a whole foods or health store.

    Take care!


  • Chelsea

    Thank you Misty. I was very worried about it. I brought him to his regular pediatrician this morning. He could have used one or two stitches but since it had already started to heal some on its own the doctor didn’t think it would be a good idea to stitch after 12 hours. He said the wound should heal fine since I’d had it cleaned and bandaged well. Right now all I can do is continue cleaning it with antibacterial soap (with a cotton ball) and keep it bandaged until it starts to scab. He did say there is a higher risk of infection because it is an open wound with a bunch of little crevices around it. So we are going to keep a good eye on it for any signs of infection. My little man had a little trouble sleeping. I could see he was just trying to find a way to lay that wouldn’t cause pain. I’d actually gotten some children’s Advil out to give him for pain to help him sleep. When I came in with it he’d found a good position and ha fallen back to sleep. I didn’t eat to disturb him so I just put the Advil up. Thankfully I hadn’t given it to him. All of his moving had caused the wound to bleed again and his doctor said had I given it to him it wouldn’t have stopped bleeding. I should have known that because of aspirin and other blood thinning medicines. I guess at the time all I could think about was taking his pain away. Thanks again!

  • Hi Chelsea,

    My 3-year-old is just as active. You have about 24 hours after an injury to get stitches. The main thing is to make sure the wound is cleaned out – no gravel, dirt, etc. Also, you want to keep it moist – (the opposite of after you have stitches). You can use a small amount of antibiotic ointment or dampen some guaze pads over the wound until you can get to the doctor. If the edges dry out and start to scab, it’s difficult to get them to heal back together.

    So, a cut late at night can easily wait until morning if you’re able to get the bleeding stopped. This way you can avoid the trauma, cost, and many hours spent at the E.R., and wait until you can get in to your regular doctor’s office for stitches. The only time I would be picky about who does the stitches is on the face – then you should insist on a plastic surgeon.

    Also, the knee is a difficult place for a cut, especially in a young, active, child. If it gapes open when he bends his knee, it will most likely benefit from stitches. It sounds like you’re pretty worried about it, and a visit to your family doc would also help you know you did the right thing – even if it doesn’t end up needing stitches.

    Hope that helps and that he does better quickly!


  • Chelsea

    Hi Misty, a little over an hour ago my 3 year old son fell outside and busted his knee. My nephew had carried him in as blood streamed down his leg. I’m not so great with wounds and had to yell for my mom to come help me in the bathroom. It took about 10-15 minutes to get the bleeding to stop. I’m not sure how to describe the wound. It’s right on the knee, pretty close to the center. At first it looked as if there was a huge gash because of the way it was bleeding. But after getting it cleaned up we could see where some skin was pulled back and kind of folded under. It looks worse when he bends his knee. Its not a huge wound but it isn’t exactly small. We have two average size band aids on it now but I don’t think they are going to hold the wound closed very well.
    My parents don’t think it’s bad enough for stitches and I do tend to think the worse when it comes to injuries. I couldn’t get a very good look at it before because of the bleeding and I got real weak out of no where. I’ve never reacted that way before. I have plenty of nephews so I’ve seen some pretty massive wounds. From 3rd degree leg burns to exposed wrist tendons. This was the first time that I broke into a sweat and felt as if I were going to pass out. I think it could have just been because this time it was my little boy that was hurt and crying. I managed to look at it again after everything settled down (and now thats hes asleep). I’m not very optimistic about it not needing stitches. Mainly because of where its at. I’m afraid it will just get worse with movement. He spends almost all day outside. He’s a very active little boy, even in his sleep. I know I’m going to have to reapply band aids in the middle of the night because of the way he moves as he sleeps. I’m also worried about him falling on it a lot. As I’m sure you know scrapped knees are a constant with 3 year olds, especially active boys.
    I didn’t want to make the trip to the ER and pay a crazy fee for something that really didn’t need it. I hate the thought of having to hold him down as the clean it and look at especially if all they have to do is bandage it. I’ve been to the ER with him before where unnecessary and painful tests were done and I just do not want to put him through anything like that again. Yet I don’t want to find out later that it was necessary. I plan on calling his doctor in the morning to have it looked at. How long after a wound can stitches be applied? Is waiting till morning too long?

  • Hi Maureen,

    I’m glad to hear he’s feeling better. Head wounds, in general, bleed a lot, so you shouldn’t base your decision on that. Look at the wound itself and based on the criteria up above, decide whether to go to the E.R. Also, depending on how long his hair is, a novel way to keep the wound closed is to rubber band some hair together from either side of the wound.

    In general, the scalp isn’t going to get pulled on a lot, and most people don’t care if they have a scar there – so if the bleeding has stopped and it isn’t that deep, you can be fine without stitches. Just watch for infection, keep it dry (don’t shower/bathe that area for a few days), and do what you can to keep it from getting pulled open.

    You have to go with what feels right for you, but I hope that helps.


  • maureen


    My six yr old son just walked into a metal box got a gash on the top of his head about an inch long bled a lot but stopped and he seems fine otherwise eating an ice cream now, wonder should i take him to er just as precaution cut is right on top of head at scalp. lot of blood and that scared him got the bleeding to stop and cleaned him up cut does not seem so bad now

  • Hi Holly,

    Yours is not a clear-cut situation. Usually with something that needs drained, doctors like to leave it open, not stitched, otherwise more fluid would just accumulate in the pocket under the stitches.

    Also, stitches are generally only put on fresh wounds (within the same day). Any later than that and the wound edges have already started to heal and so they won’t heal together or ‘stick’ well.

    So, with it being a few days now, they might need to cut along the edge of the wound to get a fresh edge in order to place stitches.

    However, the body will eventually fill up any wound from the bottom up. It’s very unlikely you will have a big hole heal there. What usually happens is the body slowly regrows new tissue until the hole is filled. This is called “granulation” if you wanted to do some reading about it. It can, however, take quite a while to happen, up to two to four weeks in a medium-sized wound.

    It is always a good idea to go in for a clinic visit to have someone actually look at the wound. You also want to make sure the red and irritation is not infection – especially if there is heat, swelling, and pain also.

    I’m assuming you meant “pilonidal” cyst and since you mentioned that this is recurring, there was a mention in the wikipedia article of an interesting alternative to surgery to keep the cysts from recurring:

    “A novel and less destructive treatment is scraping the tract out and filling it with fibrin glue. This has the advantage of causing much less pain than traditional surgical treatments and allowing return to normal activities after 1–2 days in most cases”

    Good luck – hope that helps!


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • Holly

    Hi. My name is Holly. I went to the ER early sunday morning to have a pieanital cyst drained *which I have had done a few times before* the doc that I had this time made a very deep and very long cut into it and packed it with a gauze ribbon. The ribbon came out yesterday because of the opening of the cut was so large. My husband said that the flaps of skin are curlings inward leaving a big open hole and that it is still very red and irritated looking. Do I need to go get stitches? I’m scared that it will heal as a big hole and I will have problems in the future keeping infection out.

  • Hi Cara,

    Bandaging it too tight can definitely cause pain and throbbing and the fact that it felt better unwrapped is a good sign. I’d definitely get the tetanus updated and any pain reliever is fine for the headache.

    A 1/4 inch cut is pretty small and one that a doctor might not even put a stitch in anyway.

    Also, the ‘panicky’ feeling could be more of a panic/stress response, than the injury causing it.

    With it being at the bend, I’d try to keep from bending that thumb for the next 3 – 5 days while it heals – I know it’s inconvenient, but a popsicle stick or finger split can help – just make sure it’s not too tight this time 🙂

    Icing can help with swelling and pain. On a small body part like a finger, just make sure you don’t overdo it, ie. don’t let it get all the way numb from the ice. You don’t want to compromise the circulation or get close to frostbite.

    Sounds like you did really well taking care of it yourself. Just keep an eye out for signs of infections and have a clinic visit if anything is worrisome to you.

    Hope that helps 🙂


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • Cara

    hi Misty,

    I cut my thumb early this morning (13 hours ago) with a kitchen knife while cutting up chicken. I was immediately worried about botulism & all the scary things you hear about raw chicken so rinsed it off with a lot of water and stopped the bleeding by pressing on it. I made some butterflies from bandaids & put on neosporin. I looked online about the botulism and it seemed like that wasn’t an issue. Anyway I kept it bandaged all day (maybe too tightly?). When I laid down to sleep tonight my thumb was **throbbing**- really painful so I got up. I felt panicky and really nauseous & shaky for about 20 minutes.

    I called a nurse phone line & she said to go to the ER. I decided not to go because of cost (I have insurance but it might end up costing $500-800).

    The cut is on the top of my thumb, it’s vertical and right at the bend. It’s just under 1/4 inch long. From reading the rest of your comments it seems like I don’t need stitches but am not sure. It bled a tiny bit when I took the bandage off but is not bleeding now. I really didn’t think was a big deal until tonight when it was so painful. The throbbing has stopped since I took off all the bandaids and since I’ve been walking around and sitting upright. It’s still painful on the side of my thumb but not numb.

    I have a major headache as well & not sure whether to take aspirin. I also have def not had a tetanus shot in years so was thinking of going to the daytime urgent care tomorrow for that. Also was thinking of maybe icing on top of my thumb. Thoughts?

  • Amber,

    Sorry about your injury. You might want to check with your city or town, because many places operate clinics for those who can’t afford medical care. They often ask for proof that you are low income, pay stubs from your parents, etc., but they are there to help people just like you who need help but can’t afford it.

    If you decide to treat it at home, remember that your body will heal it on its own pretty well as long as it doesn’t get badly infected. It’ll also heal faster if you can keep from popping it open.

    So, you need to make sure you got it very clean, with no bits of road dirt, etc. in the wound. Then you’ll need to figure a way to keep the wound still, so it doesn’t get popped open over and over. You can even use a fabric bandage – cut the sticky ‘fabric’ part into thin strips and then tape those in a row from one edge to the other across the wound, like this: -|-|-|-|-|-

    After that, you need to figure a way not to move it. Since it’s your wrist, you can try using one of those wrist braces with the metal piece so you can’t bend your wrist and reopen the wound. Or anything stiff can be wrapped on loosely with an ace bandage. In a few days, 3 – 6 or so, the wound should have attached back together enough to be able to carefully bend it again.

    Again, make sure to watch for it getting really hot, really red, or red that spreads away from the room, or a bunch of yucky pus – all signs of infection. In that case, you’ll really need to have someone look at it to get the infection treated.

    It’s good news that it’s only 1/2 and inch wide. That would usually only need 2 – 4 stitches anyway, so it’s a wound that can heal very well on it’s own.

    Make sure you let your parents know if something about it worries you or it starts to get worse. You should show it to them now, also, so they know what it looked like at first, so they can tell if it’s getting better or worse.

    Good luck!


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • Amber

    The other day, my boyfriend and i were trying to ride a bike at the same time. I slipped and fell on the road, i have a lot of scrapes, but my main concern is a cut on my left wrist from the chain. You can see the fat and its about half an inch wide, but no bone. Its no question i need stitches, but Im 15 and my family cannot afford it, no matter how needed. Are there any extra steps to take for a serious wound? Also, Everytime i move my hand to do something, the wound moves, its on the inside of my left wrist, more towards my hand than the center. Help please?

  • Sorry to hear that, Taylor.

    Flaps of skin, if they are thin, will often end up drying up much like a scab and eventually coming off. If the flap is thick enough, then it will have a bit of a blood supply that eventually can heal back together with the tissue underneath. Keeping it from getting popped back open will make a big difference in it being able to do that while healing.

    So, if you can keep it held together well with tape strips/butterfly bandages/steri-strips so the wound doesn’t move, then you should be fine. If it’s in a place that will get bent or used a lot, then stitches will help it hold together. You can also try a finger splint or a popsicle stick to keep your finger from bending while it heals.

    Again, you need to watch for infection and check for any numbness in the rest of the finger – the flap of skin itself may feel numb or swollen, but that is normal and should improve as it heals. You just want to make sure there is no nerve that was cut, which would give you numbness/tingling along the finger or the muscles in the finger won’t work right. Just so you know, nerve damage is extremely unlikely with a shallow cut.

    Hope that helps, and if you’re worried at all or it gets worse in the next few days, make sure to check with your doctor.


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • taylor

    I sliced my finger on a fabric cutter , it a little deep but not too bad . It happened a few hours ago and its a flap of skin that was cut but I put it back into place . It also feels weird when I touch it , but do you think I should go for stitches ?

  • Sorry to hear about that, Angela.

    Without seeing the wound, it’s obviously difficult to say, but here’s what you should consider. The lumpy stuff could just be the tissue under the skin. The big things you worry about are: Did she damage a ligament or tendon, with it being near the joint? You can check by seeing if she’s able to move the finger as usual. Did she damage a nerve? This is checked by the moving normal and for areas that are numb or tingly. Did she damage the joint? Again, does it move normally?

    Any trouble with these should be checked over by a doctor in case a repair needs to be made.

    Infection always needs to be watched for: spreading redness, heat, swelling. You can apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment for up to two days (too many days can cause irritation on it’s own.)

    Finally, will she pop it open over and over when the joint bends? Stitches will help prevent this. Without stitches, one way to help with this on a finger joint is to tape a popsicle stick or finger splint to the finger until the cut heals enough to stay closed when bending – usually around a week.

    And go with your instincts. You know your daughter and can best judge if this is really hurting her, something is not right, or if it’s just a small cut that is healing fine. If it worries you, a visit to your family doctor can help.

    Hope that helps and good luck,


    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • Angela

    My daughter just cut her finger with a kitchen knife. The cut is near a joint and i can see some lumpy stuff inside the cut. The skin wont stay together by it’s self but the bleeding has stopped. Should I take her in for stitches or can I keep a band-aid on it?

  • Sorry to hear that Kelly – my 3-year-old is also constantly getting into stuff. 🙂

    A small cut that stops bleeding quickly is usually fine – with all the above mentioned considerations – it isn’t too deep (can you see to the bone, etc.), there isn’t any nerve involvement – which is hard to ask a 3-year-old, but you could stroke around his finger and ask him if there are any spots that ‘feel funny’ (numb), it isn’t going to get pulled open over and over, and you don’t care about the scar.

    If all that is fine, it’s usually ok to keep a bandage on it so the edges of the wound don’t get pulled apart and to keep it dry. It’s most important to watch for infection and you might want to put a thin layer of antibiotic ointment on the wound the first day or two.

    Again, if there is anything about it that doesn’t seem right, or you are worried, it’s always best to check in with a doctor who can take a look at it.

    Good luck!

    Disclaimer (sorry, but for some, this is necessary) – All content of this website is for informational purposes only, and not medical advice.

  • Kelly

    hello, my 3 year old put his thumb in a can of juice and sliced his finger, it’s bleeding but not hard..should he need stitched? or if I clean the cut well and put a band aid on it will this be fine?

  • Ouch Matthew! If you could see the bone, then that’s pretty serious and you should have it looked at. What you would worry about if it’s that deep is: adequate cleaning of debris (stuff) that could get stuck in the nooks and crannies and cause a later infection, maybe needing antibiotics for that reason, possible damage to the muscles and nerves of the hand.

    However, if it’s the torn skin that is white, then that is pretty normal for an injury, because once it’s torn, it’s no longer getting blood flow, so it turns white.

    Here are the big concerns – make sure every speck of dirt/gravel/etc. is out of the wound to help prevent infection, make sure all the muscles move correctly in your hand, make sure you have no numbness or tingling that might indicate nerve damage, watch for signs of infection – which are redness, heat, swelling. You’ll likely have swelling from the injury, but as long as there isn’t redness or heat, you should be ok.

    Without seeing it, I obviously can only give you general guidelines and it’s up to you and your doctor to decide how to handle it. I hope the information helps.

    Good luck!


  • Matthew

    Misty just like 15 minutes ago i tried to jump on a wall on slid off and chipped lots of skin off and it turned white im not sure im i could see my bone but what should i do i dont mind a scar and i already cleaned it off and bandaged it.

  • Glad to help, Jim – hope it heals quickly!


  • Jim

    Thanks a ton i got cut and i will definitely follow your advice thanks misty!

  • Marcos

    Hey thank you Misty I appreciate the time and advice, I’ll just learn from this situation and hopefully be more prepared in case of a next time.


  • If you don’t mind the scar, that type of cut can heal fine without stitches. I’d just keep butterfly bandages on for a week or so, just in case something happens to pull on the wound.

    I’m not familiar with skin shield – if it’s a type of liquid bandage, I wouldn’t expect it to have much strength to hold the wound edge together. It’s more to provide a thin layer of covering to shield the wound from dirt and infection while also helping prevent drying out of the wound.

    As far as alignment of the wound – at day 3, you’re pretty much stuck with what you have. The time to change it is at the very beginning. After it’s started to heal, the only way to ‘fix’ it is to have it cut again and restitched.

    Some comfrey herbal ointment or even a moistening scar cream can help minimize scarring. And don’t forget sunscreen every day during the first year or two if you don’t want the scar to darken to a brown.

    Hope that helps!


    (Disclaimer – As always, please consult your physician for medical advice. All content on the website is for informational purposes only.)

  • Marcos

    I recently was playing basketball and ran head to head with another player, the left upper part of my eye lid split open. The cut was not fairly deep I did not see fat or bone, so I stopped the bleeding and went home to dress the wound. I used iodine swabs and antiseptic on a Q-tip to get inside the wound so it would be cleaned properly. I used butterfly bandages to keep the wound closed and kept icing it after for ten min. intervals. It is now day 3 and the wound is seeming to heal. I was told I should get stitches but don’t mind a scar. Would it be safe to use skin shield to keep the wound close better? I would imagine a lot of sting from it. I also don’t know if I got the wound aligned properly for minimal scaring. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  • Glad to help – take care!

  • cindy

    Thank you! You are a big help 🙂 i just hope he doesnt hurt it soon!

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