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We all injure ourselves at some point. Most cuts, scrapes, and bruises heal on their own after being disinfected and bandaged. Severe wounds require more intensive treatment. Deep injuries must be well-treated to ensure the surrounding organs and tissues aren't infected. Knowing how to clean a wound, recognize the signs of infection, and when to see a medical professional can prevent an injury from becoming or causing a serious condition.

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What is a Wound?

A wound is an injury to living tissue caused by a cut, puncture, string, bite, blow, or another impact; the injury will usually tear the skin and break it open. Tiny cuts like those caused by paper or small, sharp objects usually aren't severe enough to warrant medical intervention, but more massive tears in the skin are serious risks to your internal health.

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What is a Wound Infection?

An infection happens when germs enter a wound past the skin barrier. The presence of microbes doesn't always indicate an injury is infected. The number of bacteria and their degree of pathogenicity (intensity of the infection) determine whether the germs can overwhelm your immune system and cause disease. The infection may affect the skin, or penetrate to the deeper tissues or organs nearest to the wound. You can take care of minor wounds infections at home, but you might have to visit the doctor or emergency room for a more severe injury.

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How do I Treat a Minor Wound?

Many cuts and scrapes are superficial and are easily treated at home. Stopping the bleeding, cleaning the wound carefully, and covering it with a band-aid or dressing is all that is required. With careful attention, minor wounds should start to heal within a few days. Keep the wound covered, but change the bandage regularly to prevent infection.

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Treating Wounds at Home

It is vital to clean the wound before applying a dressing. This lessens the danger of infection and promotes healing. First, thoroughly wash and dry your hands and put on sanitary, disposable latex gloves. Rinse the wound under cool water for five minutes. Next, use an alcohol-free wipe to pat the skin gently. Dry the wound using a clean towel. Avoid fluffy materials like cotton balls as the fibers can stick to the wound. Then, apply the sterile dressing. Blood may soak through the dressing, so leave it in place and add another bandage. Keep the dressing clean by changing it as often as necessary. Carefully remove the bandage once the wound has closed, which generally occurs within a few days.

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When to Seek Medical Attention?

You should seek medical advice if the wound doesn't stop bleeding or if it has something embedded in it. If the scrape is too sore and tender for you to clean it effectively, or if the pain is severe even when you aren't touching it, see a physician. Wounds that are deep or near vital blood vessels should be examined by a doctor, as should those that remain red and inflamed or begin seeping pus. All animal and human bites need medical attention due to the bacteria frequently found in saliva. If you're in doubt, it's always best to see a doctor.

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Who is at a Higher Risk for Wound Infection?

Wounds become infected for many reasons. Anything that diminishes your body's ability to heal may put you at risk for a wound infection. Individuals over the age of 65 are more prone to infection. Medical conditions that weaken the immune system, such as autoimmune disease, diabetes, and cancer, all heighten the danger of infection to open wounds.

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How to Recognize a Wound Infection?

Symptoms of infection often include a high temperature of 100.4 or more. There may be red, painful, or swollen skin around the wound. If the injury hasn’t healed after ten days, infection is possible. If the pain and swelling increase rather than improve, or the wound smells bad, seek medical advice immediately.

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How is a Wound Infection Diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and do an examination. He or she will ask how and when you were wounded. Also, you may need blood tests or to give fluid or tissue samples. The samples will be sent to a lab and tested for bacteria. You may also need an x-ray or CT scan to ensure there aren't any foreign objects inside the would and that disease is not setting into the deep tissues.

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Wound Healing After Treatment

Many injuries are superficial and will not require extensive medical care. Most accidents need disinfectant, perhaps a few stitches, and a clean bandage. If you require stitches, the doctor will inject a local anesthetic so you will not feel any pain. Some stitches need to be removed by the doctor after healing is complete, while others dissolve on their own in a few weeks.

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How is the Wound Infection Treated?

Your treatment will depend on how severe the wound is, its location, and whether or not other areas are affected. The state of your health and the length of time you have had the wound are also considerations. Medicine can heal the infection and decrease the pain and swelling. A wound vacuum may be utilized to encourage healing. A hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can provide your tissues with more oxygen to help them heal; this medical treatment delivers 100 percent oxygen to a patient’s pulmonary system while they are within a pressurized chamber. In more serious cases, surgery can remove embedded foreign objects or infected or dead tissue.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.