Does my cut need stitches?

Bleeding from small cuts and grazes can be controlled by applying pressure to the cut using a clean, non-fluffy pad (preferably a sterile dressing, if you have one) and by raising the injured body part above the level of the heart, so the bleeding slows down and stops. If it’s your hand or arm, raise it above your head; if it’s a lower limb, lie down and raise it.

If you don’t have a sterile dressing to hand, use your hand, their hand or even a tea towel or t-shirt to slow down the bleeding.

Once you're sure the cut is clean and the bleeding has stopped, apply an adhesive dressing. For more information about cleaning cuts and grazes, see How do I clean a wound?

The cut should heal by itself within a few days.

For more information about applying a dressing, see How do I apply plasters and other dressings?

However, you should seek medical advice from your GP or NHS walk-in centre if:

  • the bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes of applying pressure
  • the cut is long or deep
  • something is embedded within the cut
  • the cut occurred as a result of an animal or human bite, or was punctured by any other object that may cause infection
  • the cut is on the mouth, face, hand or genitals

You should also get medical assistance if you think the cut is not healing properly, or may be showing signs of infection – common signs of infection include swelling, redness, pain, and pus coming from the wound. The cut may need to be cleaned or stitched, and you may be given antibiotics.

There are several ways of closing a wound. These include:

  • traditional stitching (suturing): depending on the location of the cut, dissolvable stitches may be used
  • skin staples: often used on the scalp (where hair makes it awkward to use wound closure tapes)
  • wound closure tapes or butterfly stitches: which hold the edges of the skin together
  • skin adhesive (skin glue): usually used on small surface cuts  

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 18/02/2015

Next review due: 31/03/2017