Dissolvable Stitches: 7 Self-Care Tips
- Dissolvable Stitches Home CareFirst, the good news: You don’t have to visit a healthcare provider to have your stitches removed!
Dissolvable stitches, or dissolvable sutures, are harmlessly absorbed by the body, which means that physicians often use them to close wounds under the skin’s surface. Healthcare providers may also use dissolvable stitches to treat cuts on the face, lips or inside the mouth.
“Dissolvable” doesn’t mean “no care necessary,” though. Taking good care of your stitches and wound can prevent infection and ensure the best possible cosmetic outcome.
- 1. Keep your stitches clean.It’s important to keep dirt and germs out of your wound. It may be a good idea to cover your stitches with a loose piece of a gauze, especially at first. The gauze can keep debris out of your wound and will absorb any bleeding or drainage. (Change the gauze when it becomes soiled or saturated.) Wearing gauze or a bandage over your incision can also prevent snagging; uncovered stitches can easily snag on clothing.
Always wash and dry your hands with a clean towel before touching your stitches.
- 2. Keep your stitches (mostly) dry.You should not shower or bathe for at least 24 hours after getting dissolvable stitches. After that, showering is okay. (Unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise.) You do not have to cover your stitches in the shower; simply let the water run gently over your stitches and incision. You can also wash the area with mild soap. Do not scrub vigorously. After your shower, pat dry.
It’s not a good idea to soak your stitches in a tub. However, if you can keep your stitches out of the water, a hot bath is all right.
- 3. Put contact sports on hold.Your stitches hold the edges of a wound together so it can heal well. Bumping or otherwise disturbing the area can cause the edges of the wound to separate, which could impede healing. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions regarding activity. In most cases, you’ll be advised to avoid contact sports, such as football or hockey. You should also skip swimming for a while. Showers and baths are okay, but you should not swim until after your stitches are gone.
- 4. Don’t pick at your stitches.As your wound heals, you’ll likely experience some pulling and itching sensations. You may also notice crusty, scab-like material forming in between your stitches. Do not scratch your wound or pick at your stitches, no matter how tempted you are. You could disturb the healing process and may inadvertently introduce infection—which could cause additional complications. An oral antihistamine may help calm the itchiness.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for cleansing the wound and using topical antihistamine or anti-itch creams.
- 5. Clean your wound as directed.If your dissolvable stitches are deep inside—say, as part of an abdominal surgery—you won’t have to do anything with them. If your dissolvable stitches are accessible, though, your healthcare provider will probably want you to clean the area on a regular basis. After the first 24 hours, use clean water or soap and water to gently clean the wound; pat dry. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean your stitches, as both can inhibit healing.
- 6. Watch for signs of infection.Be alert for signs and symptoms of infection, including redness, a foul odor, swelling, increased pain, and fever. Generally, your wound should look a little bit better each day. If it starts to look worse, or if you notice any signs of infection, contact your healthcare provider. Ignoring a possible infection can lead to medical complications; prompt treatment can eliminate the infection and get your healing back on track.
- 7. Be patient.Most dissolvable stitches are gone within a week or two. However, some stitches persist for weeks or even months. Ask your provider how long it will take for your stitches to dissolve. If your stitches are still in place a few days after your estimated “stitches should be gone” date, contact your healthcare provider.
Do not pick at your stitches, even if they look like they’re falling out. Touching your stitches increases the risk of infection.
Dissolvable Stitches: 7 Self-Care Tips