When you cut yourself, the first thing you should do is apply pressure to the area. Then, after you've held pressure on the area for a few minutes and brought the bleeding under control, you should assess the severity of the wound and decide whether or not you need stitches. Not all cuts need to be stitched. Many can be cleaned, bandaged, and left to heal on their own with the occasional pat or antibiotic gel. These are five signs that your cut does need to be stitched:
It's more than 1/4 inch deep.
This is just a general guideline. If the cut in on a very fleshy area and is less than 1/4 inch deep, it probably does not need to be stitched unless it meets some of the other criteria in this article. However, you may want to have shallower cuts stitched if they are on less fleshy areas, like your fingers and toes.
It extends over a joint.
Wounds over a joint don't heal easily without stitches. This is because each time you bend the joint, the sides of the cut are pulled apart. Very tiny cuts on a knuckle or knee may be okay without stitches, but if you notice the wound opening and closing as you bend the joint, you should definitely head to urgent care.
It's on your face.
Even if a cut on your face is not overly deep, it's generally a good idea to have it stitched. This is because facial skin is more prone to scarring than other skin -- and when you have a scar on your face, it's hard to hide. Stitching a wound shut usually results in less scarring than you'd have if you were to let the wound heal naturally.
It's still bleeding profusely.
If you've been applying pressure for 15 or 20 minutes and you're still seeing a lot of blood, then having the cut stitched is important to minimize blood loss. Wounds in the head often behave this way and require stitches even though the same size wound would not be a concern at all elsewhere on the body.
It's longer than 3/4 of an inch.
Long cuts also have a hard time healing on their own, and they're more likely to get infected because so much area is exposed. Stitching will keep the wound from re-opening.
If you have any doubt as to whether or not you need stitches, always err on the side of caution. Head to your local urgent care clinic, and they will tell you how to proceed.