Skin is the body’s largest organ, composed of protein, fats, water, and minerals. Furthermore, it plays a role as the first line of defense against foreign particles such as microorganisms. Microorganisms may include bacteria, fungi, or viruses also. Moreover, it acts as a barrier between the body’s internal system and external environment.
Surprisingly, skin consists of sensitive tissues but at the same time is an intact part that can protect the body from external threats. It also assists in maintaining body temperature. Our skin has a community of various beneficial microorganisms called microbiota of skin.
However, when your skin receives a wound, these microbes quickly get into it. They start multiplying there and may cause infections. Our immune system activates and starts producing different immune cells to heal wounds.
The body naturally heals the wound and prevents skin infection most of the time. However, the wound gets infected in some cases due to a lack of proper care. Most commonly, the infection occurs due to bacterial invasion. Sometimes, the infection spreads to the surrounding tissues and leads to serious complications.
Small wounds or minor cuts heal quickly, while others take some time to heal properly. Several factors affect the healing process of a wound or cut, such as the location of the wound, its depth, the cause of the injury, and the way you treat the affected area.
The skin undergoes different stages during the healing process, such as a change in color and texture, including the yellow or pink color appearance of the skin in the surrounding area of the wound. In some cases, there oozes clear drainage from the injury.
However, there comes the point when your cut or wound signals the occurrence of infection. Similar to your internal body infections, you should also pay attention to infections on your skin. Therefore, we will discuss knowing if there is an infection in your wound. Furthermore, how to treat an infected wound or cut.
How do you identify an infected cut?
Typically, when you receive a cut, there appears mild redness, swelling, and pain in the affected area. Thus, these are not signs of infection. Then how to know if the cut is infected? For this, you have to check the skin around the wound.
According to Michael Billet, an emergency medicine healthcare professional, if the redness spreads more than a quarter-inch surrounding the wound and doesn’t disappear even after days, it can be a sign of infection.
Furthermore, if the infection advances around the affected area and you also feel physically ill, it is a clear indication of wound infection. In addition, you may see the surrounding skin of an infected wound is swollen or warm when touched. There can be oozes of pus or whitish material from the infected wound.
Wound infections may also lead to other symptoms such as;
- Feel warm around the infection.
- Whitish or yellow discharge draining out of the wound.
- A foul smell came out of the infected cut.
However, seek medical attention if you experience any following symptoms. Includes,
Initially, it is fine to have some swelling around the cut. However, if the swelling doesn’t disappear or increases with time, it indicates the infection.
The appearance of red streaks:
If red streaks originate from the wound or red streaks around the wound, seek immediate medical attention, as it indicates the spread of infection in the wound.
It is pretty normal to appear redness around the wound in the initial days of injury. However, if redness continues for a long time, it is a sign of infected cuts.
If you experience fever after a few days of injury, the infection has been spread in the wound and reached the blood. Thus, it is a clear indication of infection, so you should consult a medical professional immediately.
Feeling physically unwell:
If you feel physically unfit, dull, or exhausted, your body undergoes fighting with an infection. Furthermore, vomiting, malaise, and nausea are more clear signs of an infection.
It is normal to suffer pain when you receive a cut. However, if you experience increasing pain with time, it hints that you have an infection in the wound.
Hindrance in movement:
When you receive a cut, it may lead to temporary restriction in movement of the affected part due to swelling and pain. However, if you cannot move the wounded area even after days, it may have a wound infection.
Swollen lymph nodes:
Swelling in the lymph nodes usually occurs due to infection from microorganisms, e.g., bacteria or viruses. Most commonly, it occurs due to the spread of bacterial infection. Thus, if you witness swollen lymph nodes, the infection has increased in the wound.
The symptoms mentioned above indicate that infection spreads in deeper tissues and may lead to severe complications.
What does an Infected cut look like?
In case of infection, approximately a quarter-inch area around the infected wound will appear red and hot. Furthermore, the skin becomes puffy and scratchy at the injury site. Thus, these physical changes in the skin indicate that infection has been spread in the wound. Therefore, you must visit a medical professional for treatment.
Risk factors that increase the chance of infected cuts:
Wounds such as cuts and other abrasions become infected when bacteria enter the tissue. Hence, our skin entertains many beneficial bacteria. Thus, when you receive a cut, bacteria may enter the wound from the surrounding skin, external environment, or object, which causes injury. Consequently, it leads to the spread of infections. However, proper care can prevent disease in the wound.
The risk of infection mainly depends on the type of cut and your overall health. However, certain factors increase the chances of wound infections. The risk of infected cut is higher in such cases mentioned below,
- Deep, large, and spiked or pointed cut.
- A wound that is present on a large area of skin.
- Entrance of germs, dirt, or any other foreign particle in the wound.
- Causes of injury such as human or animal bites can lead to an infection.
- There are fewer chances of infections if you receive a cut through a dirty piece of broken glass in the street than a washed kitchen knife.
Other than causative agents, the risk of infections depends on your overall health. Thus, the following factors trigger wound infections. Includes,
- Chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
- Weakened immune system: In certain diseases such as HIV, your immune system is unable to fight against infections. In addition, when you take immunosuppressants.
- Age: With age, the risk of wound infections increases.
- Deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals.
There is a rare chance of growing infections in cuts due to surgery. However, according to the CDC, approximately 1.9 percent of surgical wounds get infected in people undergoing surgery in America.
How to treat infected cuts at home?
In case of a minor cut or small wound, you can easily treat the infected cut at home without complications. Immediately after receiving a cut, apply heat to the wound to increase blood flow. Heat also helps bring the natural blood to injury site cells to promote healing. Furthermore, to treat the infected wound at home, you can follow the basic steps mentioned below,
Clean the cut:
You can use various methods to clean a wound depending on the severity of the cut and how dirty it is, additionally the availability of materials in the first aid box.
Wash gently with lukewarm or warm water to clean the wound area. Furthermore, use detergent or alcohol wipes to remove germs or dirt particles.
Next, remove any debris or dirt articles using tweezers or a q-tip from the wound.
Let it air dry before applying a bandage to the wound.
Cover with suitable dressing:
After properly cleaning the wound, cover it with a sterilized bandage or wound dressing. Change the wound bandage daily to prevent infections. Furthermore, it also helps the wound to heal.
Apply antibiotic cream (if necessary):
The use of antibiotic ointment or cream is optional. In some cases, it may accelerate the healing process, while it may trigger allergic reactions in others. Especially, the antibiotic creams that contain Neosporin cause a more severe reaction that often mimics infection in the wound.
When to seek medical attention?
If the wound doesn’t heal completely even after days, you have to see a doctor for further treatment. Treatment depends on the types of wound infections and how long it has been started.
Don’t ignore if there are signs of infections, even in the small cut. Even a small cut can be an opportunity for pathogen entry into the body, or it may be life-threatening. Thus, in case of an infected wound, visit the doctor immediately.
There are certain complications of infected wounds that can be life-threatening. Includes,
It is a common bacterial infection of deep tissues that may lead to swelling, redness, and pain in the infected wound.
It is a bacterial infection that targets the nervous system. It rarely occurs because most of us take a tetanus shot in childhood. However, it is a life-threatening disease. Thus, in case of injury, it is the best chance to take a booster shot if you haven’t received it in the last ten days.
It is a bacterial infection that quickly spreads into the body, causes tissue death, and leads to toxic shock syndrome. It is also a life-threatening health condition.
Therefore, you should visit a doctor immediately in the conditions mentioned above.
How can you prevent cuts from getting infected?
The effective way to prevent an infected wound is to take proper care of the wound. Properly clean the cut and cover it with bandages. According to Dr. Michael Billet, the most effective treatment to stop infections is to hold the cut below the running water for at least a minute.
Furthermore, Dr. Edwards suggested that after rinsing the cut with clean water, clean the wound with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water daily. Moreover, applying an antibacterial ointment such as bacitracin and polysporin will speed up the healing process. In addition, change the wound bandage at least daily to help the wound heal properly.