Imagine a few unfortunate yet all-too-common scenarios.

  • You’ve accidentally cut your finger while preparing dinner.
  • Your toddler’s head is bleeding after he stumbles and hits it against the corner of a coffee table.
  • Your best friend has fallen off her bike, and split her lip.

Cuts to the human body are fairly common, and often a good washing and bandage are enough to jump start the healing process. But at what point should you seek professional care to either medically glue or stitch that cut?

As with many of life’s decisions, it depends. But making the right call at the right moment can mean the difference between quick healing, a lifetime scar or even muscular injury requiring physical therapy.

First stop: call your primary care physician.

“Your doctor may help you decide whether it is better to go to the doctor’s office, or urgent care center like GoHealth, or to a hospital’s Emergency Department,” said Dr. Jeff Finkelstein, Hartford HealthCare medical director for urgent care.

Dr. Finkelstein adds that your primary care physician can also help you decide whether or not a tetanus vaccine is required.

“If the cut is simple and easily cleaned, you should have had a tetanus booster immunization within the last 10 years,” he said. “It should be within the last 5 years if you have a more complex or dirty cut.”

Speaking of complex cuts, here are a few questions to consider whether or not should should seek immediate treatment such wounds:

  • Has the bleeding continued even after 15 minutes of applied pressure?
  • Are the wound edges separated?
  • Can you adequately clean the wound?
  • Is it possible that the cut has caused serious underlying damage to a nerve or tendon?

Time is another consideration. Having a medical professional attend to more serious cuts within about 6 hours is ideal, though some such cuts can be stitched or “glued” for up to 24 hours after the initial wound.

The bottom line: when in doubt, have a medical professional check it out. If your primary care physician is unavailable and the emergency department of the local hospital is perhaps too much for such a wound, urgent care is the ideal solution, especially nights and weekends.

Hartford HealthCare/GoHealth is now open in Connecticut. For more information, visit here