Suture Care

Incision closed with sutures.Stitches (sutures) are used to close wounds. Sutures also help stop bleeding and speed healing. To help your wound heal, follow the tips on this handout.

Some sutures need to be removed by a healthcare provider. Others dissolve on their own. Sometimes strips of tape are used. You’ll be told what kind of sutures you have.

Keep sutures clean

  • Avoid doing things that could cause dirt or sweat to get on your sutures. If needed, cover your sutures with a bandage (dressing) to protect them.

  • Don’t pick at scabs. They help protect the wound.

  • Don’t wash the area around your sutures unless your healthcare provider says it’s OK. Then, follow his or her instructions for washing and drying.

Keep sutures dry

  • Keep your sutures out of water.

  • Take a sponge bath to avoid getting your sutures wound wet, unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise.

  • Ask your provider when can you take a shower or bathe.

  • Ask your provider about the best way to keep your sutures dry when bathing or showering.

  • If sutures get damp, pat them dry.

Changing your dressing

Leave the dressing in place until you are told to remove it or change it. Change it only as directed, using clean hands:

  • After the first ___hours, change your dressing every ___hours.

  • Change your dressing if it gets wet or dirty.

Other tips

  • To help wounds on an arm or leg heal, use the affected limb as little as possible.

  • To help reduce swelling and throbbing, raise the area with sutures above your heart.

  • To help prevent itching, cover sutures with gauze. If sutures itch, try not to scratch them.

  • For pain relief, try acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Don’t use aspirin. It can increase bleeding.

When to seek medical care

Call your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Increased soreness, pain, or tenderness after 24 hours

  • A red streak, increased redness, or puffiness near the wound

  • White, yellowish, or bad smelling discharge from the wound

  • Bleeding that can’t be stopped by applying pressure

  • Steri-Strips fall off or stitches dissolve before the wound heals

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38.0°C)