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Wound infections occur when bacteria or other microorganisms colonize a wound and can be a serious cause for concern. Infected wounds take longer to heal and sometimes deteriorate altogether, leading to serious health risks. Here is what you need to know to diagnose and tackle infected wounds before you go to an urgent care center.
Symptoms of Wound Infections
While wound infections can vary in their magnitude and effects, here are a few key symptoms to keep an eye on if your wound gets infected:
- Swelling or bruising of the wound
- Puss discharge or buildup in and around the wound
- Foul odor or drainage
- Red streaks around the affected area
- Dizziness or fainting
- Increasing pain
Sometimes, the skin over a wound heals, but an infection still develops deep within the wound. In such cases, an abscess can form inside the wound, and will be noticeable by a buildup of puss in the affected area.
Preventing and Treating Wound Infections with First Aid Tips
Wound infections can be very debilitating, but they are also avoidable and treatable. Cleaning out and taking care of a wound immediately after the injury, greatly reduces the risk of a wound infection. Even if an infection develops, it is possible to provide the patient relief until he or she can be taken to a care center. Here is a list of steps to follow, to prevent wounds from being infected:
- Wash the wound with plenty of soap and water. Washing and disinfecting a wound is the most essential step in ensuring it does not worsen.
- Remove dirt, debris and foreign articles from the wound. Leaving a foreign object in the wound is one of the leading causes of wound infections. Do not use force or scrubbing when removing, as this can increase trauma to the affected area. The use of surgical tools is recommended, so you should seek urgent care when needed because if you do not have experience with this yourself, you can do more damage than good.
- If the area is swollen, apply ice. Do not use heat, as it can cause inflammation and worsen swelling.
- Use an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment on the affected area.
- Pack the wound lightly, with disinfected and clean gauze, but do not tie the gauze tightly.
- Make sure everything that comes in contact with the wound is clean and sterile – including your own hands!
When to Consult a Medical Provider
Most wounds will heal on their own if you wash and treat at home within 4-6 hours of the injury. However, if your wound displays one or more of the symptoms of wound infection listed above, consult your medical provider as soon as possible. It is also advisable to consult your medical provider if your wound falls into one of the following categories:
- It results from a puncture or animal bite
- It has not been cleaned or treated within eight hours
- It contains a foreign object.
People with certain conditions are also at a higher risk for developing infections. Those with diabetes, alcoholism and peripheral arterial disease are several such conditions. If you suffer from any of these, or have a weakened immune system in general, visit your nearest care center as soon as possible.