Infected wounds can be very dangerous to health. A wound infection can occur if bacteria enter and multiply inside the wound. Open injuries have a potential for serious bacterial wound infections, including gas gangrene and tetanus.
These in turn may lead to long term disabilities, chronic wound or bone infection, and death. The best way to prevent wound infections is by cleaning and dressing cuts and other small wounds immediately.
Infected wounds are of particularly of concern when injured patients present late for definitive care. They can also be of concern in disasters where large numbers of injured survivors exceed available trauma care capacity.
Therefore, appropriate management of injuries is important to reduce the likelihood of wound infections.
Symptoms of Infected Wounds
Wound infections can lead to other symptoms, such as:
- Yellow or green discharge coming from the wound.
- The wound giving off an unpleasant odor.
- Red streaks on the skin around the wound.
- Fever and chills.
- Aches and pains.
How is a Wound Infection Diagnosed?
When you sustain an injury, it is good that you report to a hospital for the doctor to see it. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and examine you.
He will also ask about how and when you were wounded. Remember to provide your doctor with accurate answers.
In some occasions, you may be asked to do any of the following laboratory tests:
- Blood tests to check for infection.
- X-ray or CT-scan to look for infection in deep tissues or a foreign object in your wound. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
- A wound culture ( which is a sample of fluid or tissue taken from the wound and sent to a lab) to test for the germ that is causing the infection.
Treating Infected Wounds At Home
Severe wounds are best treated at the hospital when the patient is on admission. Sometimes, the patient may be discharged home and asked to come weekly or thrice in a week for cleaning and dressing at the hospital. If you have a big wound, ensure that you go to the hospital for proper treatment and care.
Adults and especially children may require some pain relief medications like paracetamol or ibuprofen. Your doctor may prescribe any of these for you or your child. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to kill and prevent germs that can infect the wound.
However, you can treat minor wounds at home. When adults or children sustain injuries at home, you should treat the wound at home to avoid the wound getting infected.
To treat an infected wound at home, follow these steps:
- Before beginning, ensure that all necessary equipment is clean. For example, if using tweezers, clean them with rubbing alcohol first.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water, then rinse and dry them.
- Wear disposable hand gloves if you have them at home.
- Clean the cut or scrape by running warm water over it for several minutes. Use warm, soapy water to clean the surrounding skin, but avoid getting soap in the wound.
- Make sure that there is no dirt or debris, such as glass or gravel, in the wound. To remove debris, either use tweezers or carefully and gently rub the wound with a soft, damp cloth.
- If desired, apply a thin layer of antiseptic ointment or petroleum jelly to the cut or scrape.
- Allow the skin to air-dry before covering it with gauze or a bandage. There is usually no need to cover minor cuts and scrapes.
Other tips for treating wounds at home include:
- Change the wound dressing at least once a day. Replace it immediately if it gets damp or dirty.
- Gently wash the wound each day.
- Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or iodine on the wound as these may cause skin irritation in some people.
- Stop using other antiseptic ointments if they cause skin irritation.
- Do not pick at the skin or the scab as this can lead to scarring, slow down healing, and increase the risk of infection.
How to prevent wound infection
A person should wash the wound immediately to prevent infection. After sustaining a minor cut or scratch, you should:
- Wash the wound immediately by running clean water over it for several minutes. Then, clean the skin around the wound with warm, soapy water. If it is not possible to use clean water, treat the wound with alcohol wipes.
- Allow the skin to air-dry.
- Apply an antiseptic ointment to the wound.
- Protect the injury with gauze or another suitable dressing.
- People with larger wounds or excessive bleeding will require medical treatment. A healthcare professional can treat the injury to prevent infection and other complications.
- People with animal bites or wounds from dirty or rusty objects may be at risk of tetanus and should also seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can clean the wound and give the person a shot to protect against tetanus infection if necessary.
Tetanus is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when certain bacteria enter the body and release toxins that affect the nerves. The symptoms of tetanus can include painful muscle spasms, lockjaw, and fever.
- American Association of Clinical Chemistry – Wound and Skin Infections.
- World Wide Wounds – Recognition and management of wound infections.