A cut may need stitches (or other treatments) if:
You should also see your GP if you think the cut is not healing properly, or may be showing signs of infection. Common signs of infection include:
The cut may need to be cleaned or stitched, and you may be given antibiotics.
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).
You should also raise 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, use a hand, tea towel or t-shirt to slow down the bleeding.
Once you're sure the cut is clean and the bleeding has stopped, wrap a dressing around it and make sure it's secure. For more information about cleaning cuts and grazes.
The cut should heal by itself within a few days.
Butterfly stitches are narrow adhesive strips that help to close the edges of a small wound and encourage the skin to heal. They are sold in pharmacies as skin-closure strips or "Steri-Strips".
They should not be used on areas where the skin moves a lot, such as joints, or on oily, moist or hairy areas.
You can use the strips if the wound is shallow, clean and uninfected, and you're sure nothing is embedded in it.
Do not use them if the wound is on the face, or was the result of an animal or human bite. These types of wound should be checked by a GP or the staff at your local walk-in centre.
Make sure the skin around the wound is also clean and dry. It's not always necessary to use the full length of the strips – you can cut them to a more appropriate length. Leave about 3mm between each strip.
To apply skin-closure strips:
If the wound does not stop bleeding once the strips have been applied, this is a sign that butterfly stitches are not suitable. You should go to a minor injuries unit because another method of treating the wound may be required.
If you do not have ready access to a minor injuries unit, walk-in centre or similar out-of-hours service, visit your nearest A&E department.
Instructions to remove the strips vary by type and location of the wound. Check the patient information leaflet that comes in the packet.
If the wound becomes swollen, red or more painful then it may have become infected. Seek advice from your GP surgery, or from staff at your local walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.