How should I care for my stitches?

If you have stitches, take care to:

  • keep them clean and dry
  • watch out for any increase in redness, swelling or pain 

This will reduce your risk of developing an infection.

Your doctor or nurse should tell you how to care for your wound. If you are unsure what to do, ask your healthcare team for advice.

Find out more about getting stitches wet.

Protect your stitches

It's important not to scratch your stitches; even though they're strong, scratching may damage them.

You should avoid contact sports, such as football or hockey, to give your wound the best possible chance to heal.

You should not go swimming until your wound has healed and your stitches have been removed.

For more information, read How soon can I go swimming after surgery?

If your child has stitches, don't let them play with water, mud, sand and paint.

Playing with things like these could cause the wound area to get dirty or sore, or cause an infection.

Children may also be advised to avoid PE at school until their wound has healed.

Signs of infection

Watch out for any signs of infection near the stitches, such as:

  • swelling
  • increased redness around the wound
  • pus or bleeding from the wound
  • the wound feeling warm
  • an unpleasant smell from the wound
  • increasing pain
  • a fever of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • swollen glands

If you have any of the above symptoms, speak to your GP or call NHS 111 for advice. You could also visit an NHS walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.

Removing stitches

You will be told if you need to return to your GP or a nurse to have your stitches removed. These are the usual time periods:

  • stitches on your head – you'll need to return after 3 to 5 days
  • stitches over joints, such as your knees or elbows – you'll need to return after 10 to 14 days
  • stitches on other parts of your body – you'll need to return after 7 to 10 days

Some stitches are designed to dissolve gradually and will disappear on their own. Find out how long stitches take to dissolve.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 31/03/2017

Next review due: 30/03/2020