Preventing Infection: Caring For Wounds And Other Injuries
If you sustain an open injury that requires medical care, one of your primary concerns should be to prevent infection as the wound heals. Proper wound care is the foundation of keeping infection at bay. Learn about the proper way to care for scrapes, cuts, incision sites, and other wounds in order to progress smoothly to recovery.
Recognize Increased Risk Factors
There are several reasons why a wound might be at higher risk for infection. You should take greater care to prevent infection if it meets one of the following criteria:
- The wound is created by a deep puncture. Deep puncture wounds push bacteria deep into the skin and even into muscle tissue below the skin. Bleeding from a wound can help clean the surface, but blood from a puncture wound is minimal, and the bacteria can be so deep that cleaning the wound has no effect.
- The injury is from an animal or human bite. Bite wounds contain the bacteria from the saliva and teeth of the biter. You should always seek medical care for wounds that break the skin, especially for animal bites because rabies is also a risk.
- The wound is on your foot, hand, or in the creases of your skin, such as your armpit or near your groin. Hands and feet have higher exposure to bacteria, and areas where the skin folds over have less oxygen exposure, which can slow healing and trap bacteria.
- You have diabetes or another condition that slows healing. People with reduced immune response heal more slowly, which extends the time required for a wound to close.
Any wound that contains dirt, has jagged edges, or that is not cleaned and treated (even if it is a small scratch) could develop an infection.
Take Basic Steps for Infection Prevention
Soap and water are your best friends when it comes to keeping a wound clean. Always wash your hands before touching broken skin. Contrary to what you might think, you often do not need treatments with products like hydrogen peroxide to clean out a wound. Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria, but it kills good bacteria as well as bad and can slow the healing process by damaging healthy tissue.
If the wound is superficial, a clean cloth with a little soap can help to clean the wound site. Wipe from the center of the cut to the outer edges. Blot the wound dry and cover it with a clean bandage. Do not reuse bandages -- get a sterile dressing everytime you clean the injury site.
For deeper wounds, do not apply any soap. Instead, apply pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding and take the person to the hospital or urgent care provider. They can professionally clean and close the wound. Closing the injury is important to prevent infection.
Recognize Early Signs of Infection
Even with a good cleaning, infection can still occur. Some infections are the ones that are resistant to antibiotics and require hospitalization and intensive care. Recognizing early infection signs can be crucial to preventing a more serious condition that affects the whole body.
Each day, check the wound. It should appear better than the day before. If there is increased redness, pus of white deposits at the wound site, puffiness, increased pain, or red streaks going from the area into normal skin, seek emergency care. Other indications of infection include a bad smell coming from the infected area, and a high fever that may come and go, or get worse as the infection worsens.
For more information on proper injury treatment, contact a local medical care provider. Sometimes, surgical wounds need specialized care at the direction of your physician.