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Wound Infection: The Basics

Wound Infection: The Basics

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wound infection

Know what to do about an infected wound.

When you are undergoing the wound healing process, you’ll find your wound changes appearance and feeling fairly frequently. This is perfectly normal. However, some changes are cause for concern. Wound infection is a serious problem, and can be dire for people with compromised immune systems, diabetes or other conditions – or just for people who leave an infected wound alone for too long. A severe infection could require a hospital stay or even amputation. Therefore, it’s very important to be able to recognize the signs of infection, and to work to reduce your risk of it while you perform wound care.

What does an infected wound look like?

An infected wound has some specific signs that will let you know it is time to pay attention. If you see one of these symptoms and it feels innocuous, call your medical provider anyway just to check. If you see many, or any of these symptoms are severe, it may be best for you to seek medical care immediately. Here are the signs of infection:

  • More redness around the wound than usual.
  • Heat at the site of the wound.
  • A red streak spreading from the wound.
  • The wound grows.
  • Pain and swelling increase.
  • The wound will not heal.
  • You have a fever or chills.
  • The wound smells bad.
  • Drainage increases, including pus or cloudy fluid.

It’s best to contact your medical provider at the first signs of infection so you don’t experience a medical emergency later. There are many ways to treat an infected wound, from simply cleaning it better in the early stages to taking antibiotics or other medications as necessary. It’s also important to know that wound infection can be very serious, but some forms of it are easy to treat. An abscess can simply be lanced and treated with antibiotics, for example, and may not impede your wound healing process very much. The trick to keeping an infection less serious is to catch it early.

Make sure you understand infection prevention

Sometimes, you will have a high risk for infection no matter what you do. This is particularly true for people with medical conditions in addition to their wounds, like diabetes or compromised immune systems. However, using extreme care in treating and dressing your wound can lower your risk. Always wash your hands before interacting with your wound in any way, and wash them for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Additionally, make sure all of your wound care supplies are sterile and remain packaged that way until you need them.

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