Bandage or Stitches: What’s the Right Choice?


Ouch! You just cut your finger.

For small wounds, most people automatically reach for a bandage, but may struggle to know whether stitches are needed for a larger injury.

The following tips will help you know the right choice.



  • Stop the bleeding – Using a clean, damp paper towel or cloth, apply gentle pressure to the wound.
    • For minor injuries, bleeding should stop within five minutes.
    • If the wound is still bleeding heavily after 10-15 minutes, visit an urgent care center or hospital emergency room to determine whether stitches are required.
  • Visual inspection – When the bleeding stops, evaluate the affected area.
    • Type of wound – Is it a cut (laceration), torn skin (avulsion), puncture or scrape (abrasion)?
    • Skin closed or open – A bandage may be the best choice if the skin naturally comes together vs. gaping open. However, seek medical assistance if:
      • Fat, bones or flesh protrude from under the skin
      • The injured area opens up when surrounding skin is stretched, or muscles are moved
      • Edges are jagged, or chunks of skin are torn
    • Length and depth – For effective healing using a bandage, the wound should not be longer than three-fourths of an inch, or deeper than one-fourth of an inch.
    • Clean or dirty – Seek immediate medical assistance if an animal caused the injury or dirt and debris are embedded deep under the skin.

If a bandage is the best choice, gently and thoroughly clean the wound, apply an antiseptic and completely cover the area with an appropriate bandage.

If stitches are required, visit an urgent care facility, hospital emergency room or contact your doctor’s office. To avoid infection, the injury should be treated promptly.
Medical team members may use one of these options to close the wound:

  • traditional sutures
  • skin staples
  • tape
  • skin adhesive

Make you are up-to-date on your tetanus shot, and if you have diabetes or your immune system is compromised, contact your doctor’s office to make sure your wound heals properly.