Stitches are generally removed after 5 to 15 days, even though your wound won't likely heal for several months or longer. Your job is to keep them clean and protected the short time they're there.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Betadine Swabs
- Antibiotic Ointment
- Cotton Swabs
- Sterile Cotton Swabs
Keep your stitches completely dry for the first 24 hours. You can gently wash your hair once you get home - scalp wounds aside - but not again until after the stitches are out.
Dry your stitches off immediately after bathing, showering or any other time they get wet, until it's time for your doctor to remove them.
Clean your stitches twice a day or as ordered by your doctor. Follow cleaning by dabbing a thin layer of antibiotic ointment over the top of your stitches.
Apply the ointment with a cotton swab from the center of the wound outward - a crucial detail to avoiding the possibility of dragging germs into your wound.
Examine your stitches and wound for signs of infection, such as increased redness and swelling or pus droplets, each time you clean your stitches.
Smell your stitches. If they have a distinctive sickly odor, the wound underneath may be infected.
Check for numbness or tingling below your wound - another symptom of infection. For example, if you have 10 stitches on the top of your hand, and three of your fingers develop numbness on the fourth day, you may have an infection.
Avoid hitting or bumping your wound against anything. Stitches are strong but not impervious.
Tips and warnings
- In the hospital, stitches are cleaned using betadine swabs, large cotton swabs saturated in betadine (also known as povidine-iodine 10 percent), which is a topical antiseptic germ killer.
- Stitches tend to get crusty and dry, so you may have to wipe the swab over the wound and allow the betadine solution to rest for a minute before being able to swab away the wound exudate.
- It's acceptable to use a nonsterile cotton swab to apply your ointment if your wound is small. But for large, deep wounds, invest in a package of sterile cotton swabs and apply your ointment with them.
- Besides acting as a germ killer, your ointment will also help keep stitches and skin suppler and less tight-feeling.
- Make sure not to swim or soak your stitches in water.
- For deep wounds that require multiple stitches, check your temperature every day for the first seven days. A low-grade fever can be an indication of a systemic infection, possibly as a result of your wound.