Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Caring for sutures

6-minute read

Key facts

  • All sutures (stitches) will heal with a scar, however the scar will be less noticeable if good care is given to the wound when it is healing.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry, and follow your doctor or nurse’s care instructions.
  • See your GP to get the stitches removed at the right time and for follow-up care.
  • Protect your wound from the sun, even after it has healed — this will help reduce scaring.

What are sutures?

Sutures are little stitches that hold the edges of a wound together while the skin heals.

When the cut has healed, the sutures have done their job and are removed. Some types of sutures will automatically dissolve.

Sutures could be made of natural materials such as silk, or synthetic materials such as nylon.

What are the different sutures my doctor might use?

There are different types of sutures and techniques your doctor may use, depending on your wound.

Sutures can be:

  • regular stitches — these will be removed by a doctor or nurse once the wound has healed
  • dissolvable stitches — these are absorbed by the body naturally and do not need to be removed

Wounds or cuts can also be held together in other ways, such as:

  • a special glue for skin, which falls off by itself in a few weeks
  • adhesive tape (such as wound closure strips), which also falls off after some time
  • metal staples, which must be removed by a doctor or nurse

Stitches in your mouth are usually dissolvable. They will fall out on their own, usually after around a week but can take up to 4 weeks to dissolve.

How can I care for my sutures?

Taking good care of the sutures will help your wound heal cleanly and minimise scarring. It's important to keep sutures clean and dry, especially for the first 24 hours.

After 24 hours, you can wet the sutured area gently and quickly, for example in a sink or in the shower. Carefully pat the stitches dry immediately, as moisture can slow down the healing process.

The following tips can help you care for your sutures:

  • Do not soak in a bath or swim until the sutures are removed or have dissolved.
  • Do not pick at the stitches or scabs as it may increase scarring. These will fall off once the wound heals, or when the sutures are removed.
  • Only use creams and lotions if they are recommended by your doctor.
  • If your sutures have bandages or dressings, follow the care instructions given by your doctor or nurse, including keeping them clean and dry.
  • Avoid physical activities that might re-open the wound. Children should avoid activities such as playing in sandpits or mud, riding bikes or swimming.

You can usually manage pain from the sutures with simple pain relief medicine such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. Check the dose of pain medicine recommended on the pack.

How do I prevent or minimise scarring?

The wound will leave a scar, whether it has been stitched or glued. The scar may look red or purple in colour and be thick and raised. It will become thinner, more flexible and fade to a paler colour or be nearly invisible over time — this may take up to 2 years. However, scars may look different on different skin tones.

Sun damage can make the scar darker and more visible. You can help protect against a darker scar by using sunscreen on the healed wound for at least 12 months.

How long will my wound take to heal?

Keeping the wound dry will allow your skin to come together and start the healing process. The healing of the wound, as well as the final appearance of the scar, depends on many factors including the original wound, overall health and how well the scar is looked after.

When should my sutures be removed?

Stitches are often removed after 5 to 10 days, but this depends on where they are situated. Your doctor or nurse will advise you on the right time to remove your stitches. If the stitches are taken out too soon, the wound might not have healed properly. If you leave them in too long, they can be more difficult to remove and increase the risk of scarring. Dissolvable sutures do not need removal by a doctor or nurse. They will disappear naturally in a week or 2, but some take several months.

When should I get my sutures checked?

You should get your sutures checked if:

  • the wound re-opens
  • the wound looks the same after 5 days as when it was stitched
  • the sutures come out before they should
  • the wound becomes more red, swollen or painful
  • the amount of ooze or pus increases
  • you develop a fever within 48 hours of getting the stitches

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2022


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Suture care

Sutures are a joining of the edges of a wound by stitching or a similar process. Sutures can sometimes be called stitches. It is important to care for your sutures to help the healing process.

Read more on WA Health website

Wound care - myDr.com.au

Different types of wounds require different types of care, depending on whether they have resulted from surgery, punctures, burns, tears or ulcers.

Read more on myDr website

Skin cuts and abrasions - Better Health Channel

The body begins repairing a wound immediately and the process may continue for days, weeks, months or even years.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Travel medical kit checklist - myDr.com.au

Stay safe when you are travelling with this checklist of handy health supplies and find a list of what to take in your travel medical kit on myDr.com.au.

Read more on myDr website

Stoma after ileostomy or colostomy - Better Health Channel

A stoma is an artificially created hole (stoma) in the abdomen so that faeces can still leave the body.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Tracheostomy - Better Health Channel

A tracheostomy is a surgical procedure that involves making a cut in the trachea (windpipe) and inserting a tube into the opening.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Appendicectomy | Children's Health Queensland

If your child's appendix is causing them trouble, a simple operation can remove it.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.