Ask Dr. Warner: When Does My Child Need Stitches?

Bumps, bruises, and cuts may go hand in hand with healthy active youngsters, but no parents want to see their children injured. If an injury results in a cut, Dr. Warner’s advice can help you determine whether your child needs medical care.

It’s a scenario every parent dreads. An unexpected tumble can transform laughter into tears in a moment. When an impact breaks skin, how should a parent assess cuts to determine whether they need professional medical attention and possibly stitches?

“This is an excellent question,” says Dr. Warner, a sports medicine physician and surgeon with Summit, who regularly treats injured children and young athletes. “There’s no hard and fast rule about how to know when a child’s cut requires stitches, but there are certainly some injury situations that do require a trip to one of our OrthoQUICK clinics.”

Your first steps to treat a wound are to wash it well, stop the bleeding, and gently pinch the sides of the wound together. If the wound is clean, shallow, and less than an inch long, you can generally treat it yourself with antiseptic or antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Don’t delay; the risk of infection increases the longer a wound remains open.

Although many minor cuts can be treated at home, Dr. Warner advises that injuries accompanied by any of the following circumstances are best treated by a physician:

  • “If the cut happens on a baseball field, while a child is playing in a river or creek, or during another scenario that makes for a dirty wound, even a small cut can be contaminated with a significant amount of dirt or bacteria,” Dr. Warner explains. “This could lead to an infection and a serious problem. These injuries should be seen quickly by a physician so they can be appropriately cleaned, and sutured closed if needed.”
  • “Even when the cut is a clean injury, if the wound is long or significantly widened, it should probably be closed with stitches,” Warner notes.
  • Deep wounds that cut down to fat, muscle, or bone should be medically evaluated. “If a deep wound is over a joint, on the hands or fingers, or on the face, it’s particularly important to have a doctor treat it for both functional and cosmetic reasons,” says Dr. Warner.
  • “Another type of wound that should be evaluated by a doctor is a cut that doesn’t stop bleeding,” says Dr. Warner. “Most bleeding from a minor cut will stop within a couple of minutes with some gentle pressure. If bleeding continues for more than 15 minutes, go to a doctor without delay. Injuries to the head and face tend to bleed a lot just because there is a lot of vasculature in the head. Head injuries, more than others, should get medical attention so that your child doesn’t lose too much blood or heal with an unpleasant scar.”

“If you have any concerns about a cut, the safest option is to bring your child in for evaluation,” concludes Dr. Warner. “Even wounds that don’t need stitches may require a physician’s attention to reduce infection risks. We are always happy to assess an injury and have it professionally cleaned and disinfected.”

Summit Orthopedics supports healthy communities

Community health flourishes when specialized orthopedic care is conveniently available close to home. Summit Orthopedics is proud of our fellowship-trained subspecialty teams offering the full spectrum of orthopedic expertise in bone, tendon, ligament, muscle, and joint conditions—in addition to our wellness, prevention, and rehabilitation services. We have the expertise to proactively improve fitness, evaluate discomfort, and deliver personalized treatment to quickly and safely return you to the lifestyle you love.

Start your journey to a healthier, more active self. Visit our Facebook page to learn about our wellness services and schedule a free wellness consultation online. Find your orthopedic expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota. 

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  • Brent Warner MD

    Brent Warner, M.D.

    “As an athlete, I understand the profound impact that an injury can have on a patient’s life and well-being. My goal is to return people to activity as quickly and safely as possible, whether that’s training for an ultramarathon or walking the dog around the block.”

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