The dos and don’ts of treating an open wound and preventing infection

Small wounds such as scrapes or cuts can often be easily treated at home without any medical attention. Yet, more serious ones require an immediate visit to the doctor to determine how severe it is and get a prescription for the right treatment.

Although you may think that it is just a scratch that will heal on its own within a few days, without proper treatment, your wound may become infected or leave an ugly mark on your skin. Whether you have suffered a small cut at your finger while cooking or suffered an accident that produced a more severe wound, you have to be very careful about the way you treat it. Read on to find out how to properly treat your wound and prevent infection or complications.

Types of wounds

It is important to keep in mind that each type of wound requires a certain type of treatment in order for it to heal properly. For example, while stopping the bleeding from a cut is essential and the primary step you must take, for burns, the first aid consists of applying cold water to avoid complications.

Each type of wound has a different cause, from a mechanical to chemical or thermal sources, and a certain treatment to heal the injury. Here are the most common types of injuries and their causes:

  • Cuts- Cuts can be either superficial or deep and can be caused by sharp objects that go through the layers of skin. While the superficial ones leave the deeper skin layers unaffected, serious ones can even reach the underlying tissues such as the muscles or bones.
  • Inflammation- Inflammation is the very first response of the skin to an injury. A fall or a hit may not go through your skin’s layers but affect it and cause its inflammation.
  • Bites- Animal bites often require medical attention and a certain treatment such as tetanus shot to prevent complications. The severity of a wound caused by a bite depends whether it only leaves a superficial abrasion or a deeper wound by penetrating the skin layers.
  • Pressure sores- Pressure sores are often caused by the privation of a certain body area from blood supply. This type of wound is usually common in people that suffer from diabetes, circulation problems or malnutrition.

Recognizing an infected wound

Infection can occur even in most small wounds because they break or open your skin which means it no longer offers protection to your body from germs. Thus, when your skin is open germs enter your body and can easily cause infection if you don’t treat the wound properly. Here are the symptoms and signs that may show that your wound has infected:  

  • Increased pain in the area of the injury
  • Redness of the wound and the surrounding area
  • Increased body temperature and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • An unpleasant odor of the wound
  • Green or yellow pus

All those signs or symptoms determine a wound infection that can be not only extremely unpleasant but also life-threatening in some cases. Thus, in the case of a bacterial infection, it is vital to start a treatment based on antibiotics. In more serious cases, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the infected tissue to avoid the spread of the infection.

The dos and don’ts of wound treating

  • Do wash your wound immediately- Washing the wound with soap and water is vital to remove germs from the area and prevent infection.
  • Do stop the bleeding as quickly as possible- Cuts, especially deeper ones, cause bleeding that can be stopped by applying pressure on it with a clean bandage.
  • Do keep the wound moist- if you want the wound to heal fast and prevent infection, apply antibiotic ointment.
  • Do ask for medical help- Only a specialized doctor can determine the severity of your injury so don’t hesitate to ask for medical attention.
  • Don’t apply hydrogen peroxide on the open wound- Although it is acceptable in the beginning to apply hydrogen peroxide on the wound, it can delay the healing and harm your skin tissues. Medical specialists recommend a wound wash based on saline solution to remove dirt and promote the healing process.
  • Don’t leave the wound uncovered- The common belief claims that leaving the injuries uncovered can help them heal faster. However, in fact, a bandage applied to the wound is the best way to protect it from dirt and germs and prevent infection.
  • Don’t pick at the skin or the scab- If you don’t want for the injury to leave you an ugly mark on your skin, it is wiser to resist the temptation of picking at the skin or the scab.

Should you see a doctor?

First aid plays a vital role in the way your wound will heal. If you fail to determine its severity and apply the best immediate treatment, it can result both in complications and a longer healing period. Thus, sometimes, it is better to ask for medical attention to understand how to treat your injury properly and prevent infection. If you experience any of the following conditions, ask for medical advice immediately:

  • Bleeding cannot be stopped
  • A wound caused by an animal bite
  • Evident symptoms of infection
  • Increased pain
  • Inability to clean your wound due to pain or intense bleeding

Whether you have a minor or serious injury, it is important to treat it the right way and prevent infection. While some injuries can be treated at home and heal on their own within a few days, others require medical treatment especially in the case of a bacterial infection. The best way to be prepared for such situations is to have a first aid kit in your home that should include wound wash, adhesive bandages of all sizes, antiseptic wipes, and antibiotic ointment.  

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