Whether you have a cut, a scrape or a more serious laceration, all types of wounds can become infected if bacteria or other germs grow within the damaged area. If you suspect your cut may be infected, see a doctor immediately. If your cut is severe, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. Infection at the wound site slows the healing process, increases the risk of scars and creates a risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the body. As a result, it’s important to take steps to prevent and treat infections from wounds.
Preventing Cut Infection
Proper cleaning and treatment of a wound is often an effective way to prevent cut infection. Here are some steps to keep in mind when treating a wound to help prevent infection:
Wash the wound as soon as possible. First, wash your hands or put on gloves. Second, wipe the wound clean using a paper towel or washcloth with soap. Wipe the wound from the middle to the outside to remove any debris or dirt from the middle. Third, rinse well with water and blot dry.
Cover the wound with a sterile dressing. Once it is clean and dry, you’ll want to cover the wound with a bandage or gauze. Prior to applying the dressing, you can also use over-the-counter antibiotic ointment if you’d like, as this will reduce the chance of infection.
Clean and inspect daily for signs of infection. Every day, remove the dressing, clean the wound, check for signs of infection and cover with a clean dressing.
Certain wounds and people are more at risk of infection. Being aware of these increased risk factors can help you to properly and timely treat any infection. Wounds that are more likely to become infected are those that are:
- large, deep or jagged
- the result of a hole or puncture – for example, from a nail or glass
- caused by a human or animal bite
- not cleaned within eight hours
- contain dirt or saliva
Similarly, there are certain individuals that have a higher risk of infections. People with weakened immune systems, diabetes, a lack of mobility or poor blood circulation are at a higher risk for infection. Additionally, older adults, people suffering from alcoholism or those with nutrient or vitamin deficiencies have an increased risk of infection.
Signs of Infection
Recognizing early signs of infection are important for ensuring that you get proper treatment and keep an infection from spreading. Signs of a mild infection include redness, swelling, poor blood circulation, pain and tenderness at the wound site, pus or drainage from the wound.
More serious signs of infection include increased swelling; red streaks spreading from the wound; a foul smell; increased drainage; fever, chills, nausea or vomiting; or swollen lymph nodes. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should call your medical provider as soon as possible.
How to Treat an Infected Cut or Wound
The treatment for an infected cut depends on the type and severity of the wound. Mild infections can generally be treated at home with antibiotic ointment and proper cleaning and wound care. More serious infections will need medical attention. Additional treatment options include flushing the wound with an antibiotic solution or taking oral antibiotics. Additionally, if an abscess forms, your physician might need to open and drain the wound.
If you have a cut or wound and have any questions about how to treat it or when to see a doctor, our physicians are available 24/7 for consultation. Call us today with any questions about wound care, signs of infection or ways to treat your infection with or without antibiotics.