#68 Cuts Can Get Infected

When an injury breaks the skin, the best initial defense against infection is to clean the area. For minor wounds, wash the area with soap and water. Most soaps are effective in removing harmful bacteria. You do not need to wash wounds that need medical attention because they involve more extensive tissue damage or bleeding. It is more important to control the bleeding.


Because infected wounds can cause serious medical problems, it is important to keep an up-to-date record of immunizations. These immunizations help your body fight infection. One of these immunizations prevents tetanus, a serious disease. The best way to prevent tetanus is to receive a booster shot every 5 to 10 years or whenever a wound is contaminated by a dirty object, such as a rusty nail.


Sometimes, even the best care for a soft tissue injury is not enough to prevent infection. You will usually be able to recognize the early signals of infection. The area around the wound becomes swollen and red. The area may feel warm or throb with pain. Some wounds discharge pus. Serious infections may cause a person to develop a fever and feel ill. Red streaks may develop that progress from the wound in the direction of the heart.


If you see any of these signals of infection, care for the wound by keeping the area clean, soaking it in warm water, elevating the affected area, and applying an antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin. Change coverings over the wound daily. If fever or red streaks develop, the infection is getting worse. If the infection persists or worsens, seek medical help.