Have you ever fallen on the playground and cut your hands or legs? What about a bicycle crash? A sports accident? There are many ways that accidents can happen that result in getting nasty cuts and bruises.

Sometimes cuts can be cleaned and covered with a bandage to heal. At other times, though, they need stitches. Why is that?

Stitches are for larger cuts that a doctor believes will not heal correctly on their own. To heal correctly, the sides of a cut must be close together, so that the skin can grow back together. With large cuts, stitches help to bring the sides of a cut close together to heal properly.

Stitches are just loops of thread — called sutures — that a doctor uses to sew your cut closed. Once the cut is completely closed, the doctor will tie a knot at the end, so that the cut will stay closed until it heals.

Sutures can be made out of different types of materials. Many sutures are made of nylon or silk thread. These stitches need to be removed by a doctor once the cut is healed. It's an easy procedure and it doesn't hurt. The doctor just cuts the knot and pulls the remaining pieces of thread back through the skin.

Thanks to science and new technology, however, not all stitches need to be removed by a doctor. Doctors can now also use vicryl sutures. Vicryl sutures dissolve in your skin over time, so there's no need to get them removed.

If you need stitches, you may worry about whether or not it will hurt. Guess what? It will probably hurt a lot less than getting cut in the first place! Doctors and nurses will usually use a local anesthetic to numb your skin around the cut, so that they can clean it and sew it back together quickly. Most of the time, you will only feel a little pressure but not much pain.

When the doctor is finished putting in your stitches, you'll be told how to take care of your wound. You'll usually need to avoid getting your stitches wet. You might also have to put antibiotic ointment and bandages on your cut to make it heal faster.

Make sure you talk with your parents about how to take care of your stitches. You'll also want to keep a close eye on your stitches to make sure there are no signs of infection, such as red or swollen areas. If you see something about your stitches that concerns you, tell your parents and they can decide whether or not you need to go back to see the doctor again.

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