Risks of Infected Cuts, Scrapes, and Scratches
As we mentioned above, you may not have sought out immediate medical treatment when the initial injury first happened. You might have been able to originally treat that cut or scrape at home, providing you didn’t need stitches. But if that injury becomes contaminated with bacteria, this will be your answer of when to go to urgent care.
That’s because left untreated, an infected wound can have serious consequences. While an infected cut or scrape might not be a life-or-death situation at first, it can quickly spiral into a true medical emergency. Infections can cause the healthy tissue surrounding the wound to die, resulting in the loss of limbs. In some situations, the infection can spread to the bloodstream and cause septic shock. That can cause organ failure or fatalities.
Of course, this won’t happen right away — so if you catch an infection early and seek out medical treatment immediately, you should make a full recovery. But that’s why it’s essential to take action quickly. It’s also why you’ll need to learn to recognize the signs of a potential infection.
Signs Your Wound Is Infected
The majority of wounds are actually contaminated with some type of bacteria. Normally, your body is able to fight that off with no problem. Wound infections occur when your body’s natural immune defenses are no match for the bacterial contamination. And because even very small wounds are susceptible to infection, you’ll need to watch for the telltale signs that you or someone you love may need additional medical treatment. Here are some symptoms to watch for:
- Pus or drainage of the wound
- Warmth on or around the injury
- Foul odors emanating from the wound
- Red streaks moving away from the injury
- Increased swelling, tenderness, or redness
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Mental confusion
- Fever or chills
- Low body temperature
- Decreased urination
- Rapid pulse and/or rapid breathing
- Diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting
How to Prevent Infected Wounds
If you don’t even want to have to wonder when to go to urgent care for wound treatment, you’ll need to care for it properly from the start. Be sure to use a clean cloth and apply pressure to stop any bleeding. Once it’s stopped, clean the wound with warm water and soap, gently removing any debris you find. If there is dirt you cannot remove, you’ll want to seek out medical treatment. Assuming you can remove any and all dirt, apply antibiotic ointment, dry the area, and cover it with gauze and/or a bandage. Be sure to change your dressings when they become wet or dirty, as well as every day to wash the wound. Do not pick at or around the wound. If the wound will not stop bleeding, will not close, or doesn’t seem to be healing (or you observe any of the aforementioned signs of infection), call your doctor or go to your local urgent care center.
For more info on wound care or on the conditions we treat, please contact us today.