Caring for Stitches (Sutures)

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How do doctors close wounds?

Stitches or sutures are one method used to close a wound. That wound may be an incision made in the operating room or an accidental laceration closed in the emergency department or doctor's office. While there may be some stitches that cannot be seen that are placed deep inside the wound or under the skin, those that are visible on the skin need to be treated with care. Other wound closure options include staples and glue.

How do you care for stitches?

Whenever the skin has been damaged, there is potential for infection. The wound and the stitches that hold it together may be cleansed gently with mild soap and water after 24 hours. Twice daily washing may decrease the risk of infection. Sometimes, your doctor may recommend the use of an antibiotic ointment like bacitracin or Neosporin to help minimize infection.

It is important to avoid getting the wound dirty or very wet. Briefly showering may be advisable, but swimming should be avoided until the stitches are removed. Kids should avoid playing in the mud, sand, or water. A bandage or other covering might be necessary if the wound rubs up against clothing or if it is draining fluid.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/14/2016

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