How to Care for Summertime Stitches & Staples
An active life can make life more fun, and it can keep you in stitches! Here’s what to do if you end up with lacerations or cuts that require stitches or staples.
If you received a wound that requires sutures (stitches) or staples, keep the wound completely dry for the first 24 hours. After that, you can take daily showers, gently cleaning the affected area well with soap and water, or shampoo, if the wound is on the head, recommends Dr. Betty-Ann Svendsen,Pediatrician at Scott & White College Station Clinic and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.
Avoid soaking the wound. Don’t take baths or sit in a hot tub, so that you don’t soften the tissues around the wound, loosening the stitches or the staples. Swimming in a pool in the hot Texas summer for a short period is generally safe, says Dr. Svendsen. But she says some doctors advise against swimming until after stitches are removed and the wound is healed, so it is best to check with your physician to determine whether you should make that big jump into a swimming pool.
However, Dr. Svendsen suggests avoiding all natural water sources. “Don’t go swimming in lakes, streams, ponds, or the ocean because of the bacteria present. You don’t want to risk getting the wound infected,” Dr. Svendsen cautions.
Dr. Svendsen further advises making sure your tetanus booster is up to date.
To help speed the healing process, Dr. Svendsen recommends applying an antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin, two times a day to the sutured or stapled wound. Some wounds, such as on the arms or legs, may be covered with a gauze bandage, while others, such as on the head, can stay open.
Sometimes you may be prescribed an antibiotic for a sutured wound, especially if the wound is accidental, such as from an animal or human bite, or a laceration or puncture wound from a sharp object. Dr. Svendsen advises that it is necessary to fill the prescription immediately and take the entire course of antibiotics.
If, however, you see redness, swelling, red streaks, pus, or have fever, contact your physician immediately. It’s possible the wound is infected and will need further treatment.