How to Prevent and Treat an Infected Wound

A wound infection is when bacteria or other germs enter and spread within an area of damaged skin. Common signs of infection include more pain, swelling, and redness. More serious infections may cause other symptoms, such as nausea, chills, or fever. Minor wound infections can typically be treated at home, but more serious or persistent infections should be seen by a doctor.

Signs a Wound Is Infected

A wound that has been contaminated will generally become more serious rather than improving. In addition to the pain, swelling, and redness, the area around the wound may expand wider than a person’s thumb, indicating an infection is taking hold. Other signs of infection could include warmth in the area, yellow or green pus from the wound, a foul smell, red streaks on the skin near the wound, fever, chills, aches, nausea, and vomiting.

Causes of an Infected Wound

A wound infection occurs when bacteria find their way into a cut or wound and start to grow. The most frequent bacteria that can cause this are Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Proteus mirabilis, Acinetobacter baumannii/haemolyticus, and Streptococcus.

How to Prevent an Infected Wound

Taking care of small wounds at home can be done if one is careful. It’s important to start by ensuring all the necessary equipment is clean. Wash hands with soap and warm water; if there is bleeding, hold a clean bandage or gauze to the wound.

Wash the cut or scrape with warm water for several minutes, and use warm, soapy water to clean the surrounding skin, being careful to avoid getting soap in the wound. Remove any debris, such as grass or gravel, using tweezers or rubbing the wound with a soft, damp cloth. Once dry, a thin layer of antiseptic ointment or petroleum jelly can be applied, then cover the wound with a bandage if needed.

To protect a cut or wound from infection, rinse it with clean water for a few minutes. Then, wash the skin around the wound with warm, soapy water. If no clean water is available, use alcohol wipes to clean the wound. Allow the skin to air dry, and then apply an antiseptic ointment. Finally, cover the wound with a suitable dressing like gauze.

How to Treat an Infected Wound

Infections from wounds require prompt medical attention, as they can become serious if left untreated. Doctors can treat with antibiotics, but they must be taken as prescribed to ensure the infection is fully treated. Depending on the size and depth of the wound, medical glue, stitches, or debridement may be necessary to promote healing and prevent further infection. If the wound is from an animal bite or a dirty/rusty object, a tetanus shot may be necessary to prevent tetanus.

When to See a Doctor

If the wound is large, deep, or has an irregular shape, is not seeping together, has signs of infection such as fever, swelling, redness, or pus, cannot be properly cleaned or all debris removed, or the cause was a bite or an object that was dirty, rusty or contaminated, then medical help should be sought immediately. Urgent medical attention is needed if blood is being forced out of the wound or pressure is not controlling the bleeding.


Treating an infected wound is a delicate process that requires precision, care, and diligence. It is important to clean the wound with a bandage and treat any underlying infection properly. It is also important to seek medical attention if the wound does not improve or worsens or if any signs of infection, such as fever, redness, swelling, or pain, are present. Proper wound care is essential to avoid further complications, and if done correctly, it can help speed recovery and minimize scarring.

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