cuts and infections

Cuts & infections

What happens when a cut gets infected?

A cut gets infected when the wound is colonised by bacteria or other microorganisms. This then triggers the body’s immune response leading to inflammation and tissue damage and slows the healing process. Some infections can resolve on their own, such as a scratch or a minor case of infected hair follicle. Other infections, if left untreated, can become more serious and require medical attention.

Does redness around a cut mean infection?

There are several signs and symptoms of an infected cut, not just redness. You also need to be on the lookout for the following:

  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Tenderness
  • Pus (yellow‐white fluid with a disagreeable odour)
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Swelling

When should you go to a doctor for an infected cut?

If you notice any of the above signs of infection and are concerned, make an appointment with your doctor. You may also need to see the doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Wound changes — You notice changes around the wound, such as the redness spreading or increased pain, tenderness or swelling.
  • Contaminated wound — The wound is contaminated with soil or saliva.
  • Pre-existing health condition — You have a pre-existing health condition that can impair wound healing.

How do you treat an infected cut?

Treatment depends on the type of infection, and how serious it is. Your healthcare practitioner may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to help fight bacteria.

How do you prevent cuts from getting infected?

To help prevent wound infection and to aid healing:

  • Wash — Wash the wound thoroughly with warm soapy water, gently removing any debris.
  • Apply — Apply an antiseptic ointment or liquidafter cleaning the wound. Antiseptics can help to kill bacteria and other microorganisms that are responsible for minor wound and skin infections.
  • Cover — Bandage the cut if it’s in an area where it might get dirty or be rubbed by clothing. Change the dressing daily. Replace the dressing immediately if it gets damp or dirty.
  • Keep clean — Gently wash the wound each day and do not pick at the skin or scab as it heals; this can increase the risk of infection.

What’s the difference between minor & major cuts or wounds?

Cuts, scrapes and grazes are everyday occurrences, especially amongst children. Many cuts can be treated at home by cleaning the wound, applying an antiseptic and dressing accordingly.

But see your doctor if your wound has any of the following characteristics:

  • Large wound — A wound that is very large, on the face or reaching the bone.
  • Cause of wound — If the wound is caused by a human or animal bite, a rusty object, fishhook or nail.
  • Jagged wound — If the wound has jagged edges or the edges of the cut gape open.
  • Dirty wound — See your doctor if a cut or abrasion has dirt or debris that is not easily removed to prevent infection.

Seek emergency assistance if any of the following occurs:

  • Incised cuts — If there are incised cuts from sharp objects like knives or shards of glass.
  • Bleeding — If bleeding cannot be stopped after 10 minutes of direct, firm pressure or if the patient cannot feel the injured area.

If you are unsure whether a cut is minor or major, consult your healthcare professional for further advice.

MAT-AU-2203380. Dec 2022.

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